RanTom Thoughts/20050717 Van Cliburn Classicals!

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Van Cliburn Classicals!

(hrmn.. just not the same as 'rocks')

Let's see, I could rant about not being able to go to the Nevada Test Site for my project due to not getting clearance, but I won't. Today's entry isn't going to be a rant at all *gasp*. Because I wasn't able to go to NV this week, I was able to go to a concert I'd really wanted to go to this weekend. So today's RanTom Thoughts will be about that instead.

First, some background. When I was a kid, I had this record of Tchaikovsky: Concerto No. 1 / Rachmaninoff: Concerto No. 2 that we found at a thrift store one day. It was my favorite record in our entire collection. I would listen to it over and over and over and over and over and... well, over again :) That record was responsible for my love of Tchaikovsky. One of my goals in life at the time was to hear the pianist in concert. (*HINT* The CD is on my wish list right now for anyone who is still wanting to send a graduation present.)

Well, after I moved I couldn't remember who the pianist was. (I'm terrible with remembering names.) but I heard another song of his on the radio and instantly recognized his style. I found out it was Van Cliburn, looked it up on the web and yep, that was the record I'd had as a kid. (Apparently a LOT of other people had it too, it was the first classical recording to go Platinum.)

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The Lawn Crowd

This weekend at Ravinia, Van Cliburn was going to be back, 30 years since his last appearance there. Alas, I was going to miss it due to this project in Nevada. However, when my clearance didn't come through, I was finally able to make it. I have to say, it more than made up for the disappointment of not being able to go to the Nevada Test Site. Ravinia has 3 levels of seating. Two for $50/$75 in the covered amphitheater and $10 for the lawn surrounding it. The lawn doesn't have a direct view onto the stage, so you get two types of people coming to Ravinia concerts. Those who wish to see and be seen (monkey suit types) who buy the $75 tickets, and those who go just to hear good live music buy lawn tickets.

Having a picnic

People out on the lawn bring games, wine, food, candles, etc.. it's like a huge community picnic before the concert starts. Now some of my friends would despise lawn-goers, but personally, I like the experience of the lawn better. It's more 'earthy', which is more my style. This concert had a 4th level of people who paid $600 for the gala dinner afterwards. Way out of my price range, thankyouverymuch.

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My view at the beginning of the concert

Part of the Ravinia experience for many lawn-goers is taking the Metra to the event. There's a Metra stop right at the gate of the park, with a special Metra train that leaves the station 15 minutes after the concert ends. It's fun being on the train-ride back, with everyone talking about the concert we were all just attending. I arrived 2 hours early so I could grab some lunch / dinner at the park. (The one downside of my evening, a $9 chicken garlic sandwich that was so dry I couldn't swallow it and the bread was hard as a rock.) I found a tree fairly close to the amphitheater and read a book. (Vitals by Greg Bear)

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The Ravinia amphitheater

Eventually, the concert started and the first three parts are 'just' the CSO playing superbly (although pops-esque stuff). (Schubert's Overture to Rosamunde, Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours, and Rossini's William Tell Overture.) A few early cicadas and other insects were out contributing to the score. (Part of the appeal to outdoor classical concerts to me. I like the confluence of nature and music on a nice summer day.)

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The Gathering around the ampitheater

At this point, a large portion of the lawn audience started getting up and drifting over to the amphitheater to stand around the outside and look down to the stage. Of course I joined them :D When Van Cliburn came on stage there was a huge round of applause, but it was nothing compared to what would come later.

I slowly drifted forward along the side and eventually had a better view than 3/4 of the people in the actual seats. (1/2 of them couldn't see his hands and I was about 1/2 way up on the side that could see them.) They played Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16, which has some excellent places to showcase his mastery of the ivory. I'd never seen a video of him playing before, but he played exactly as I'd imagined he would, with the energy and kinetic motion you'd expect from how his recordings sound. I was in heaven, finally seeing the hands that had given me countless hours of enjoyment as a kid. (With an impromptu performance by a car alarm in the middle of the performance.)

When it ended, the applause was deafening. I think we were all trying to thank him for all of our cumulative hours of musical enjoyment he'd given us over the last 40 years. He did I think 9 curtain calls and 3 encores, finishing up with Rachmaninoff: Concerto No. 2, to which the audience (even the black suits) burst out in a huge round of applause as soon as we heard the first bars. (I was so happy :D ) I had that stuck in my head the whole 3 hour trip back home :) The concert was everything I expected and more. To think that I could have been in the middle of the desert instead.


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Tometheus (talk) 19:17, 17 July 2005 (UTC)

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Van Cliburn's performance from my final vantage point