Pianist Van Cliburn has died. I heard him play in concert once, attending (no doubt in silent protest) with an older sister who was a good pianist and good musician. I am neither of those.
A couple friends were talking about his appearance here earlier today on Facebook.
Then I received this in an email from Roger Quam of Sioux Falls. His recollection of the concert places it as later than I remember attending, although Van Cliburn could have played here more than once, I suppose:
We lost a great musician this morning—the pianist Van Cliburn. I have a story about him and out baby daughter Beth in the winter of 1974.
I happened on a Sunday afternoon when we took our family to hear the South Dakota Symphony at the coliseum in Sioux Falls. Baby Beth was born on December 28th , 1973 and the concert took place sometime in January. All 4 of our children had a good nap earlier that afternoon and hopefully they would make it through the concert without fussing.
That did not happen with Beth. So, I quickly took her out and stood in back of the stage. It happen to be where I could look through the partly open stage door and see the conductor as the orchestra was playing the first number on the program.
Beth was still fussing a bit and I attempted to quiet her down with my rocking her in my arms. Someone suddenly came up behind me and walked to were he could look at Beth.
“Can I hold her?” Van Cliburn asked me. I handed Beth to him. He continued to sway her in his arms for a full two minutes. She fell asleep.
Soon it was time for Van Cliburn to get ready to go on stage. He handed Beth back to me and said, “Thank you.” I returned to my seat where the rest of my family was seated.
Believe it or not, the children lasted until the concert was over. I wanted them to shake hands with Mr. Cliburn and took them back stage. As I approached the great pianist he saw me coming holding Beth. Once again he asked if he could hold her. For a brief time he swayed her again with his enormous hands and then gave her back to me. His big smile said that he appreciated the opportunity to hold a little baby girl.
I felt sad when I heard that he had died. They announced it after playing the Tchaikovsky piano concerto No. 1 on Minnesota Public Radio this noon.