VAN CLIBURN

The noted American pianist receives an overlong popular biography, stuffed with irritating detail on virtually every page. Cliburn (b. 1934 as Harvey Lavan, Jr.), a wonderful talent in his chosen repertoire, is by all accounts a genuinely attractive character as well. Unfortunately, by page one hundred, Reich (an arts critic for the Chicago Tribune), has crossed so far over the line from legitimate admiration into hagiography that he risks making the reader despise his subject. Reich has apparently read every newspaper and magazine article about Cliburn and has interviewed everyone who's ever known him. Seemingly few have had anything unflattering to say about the man, and their fond remembrances and musical tributes are quoted at interminable length. From Cliburn's high-school high jinks to his wonder years at Juilliard, his early concert successes, his fabled first prize in the 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at the height of the cold war (an event that Reich sees as the beginning of the end of Communism 30-some years later), his subsequent international celebrity, his decade-long retirement from the concert stage, and his triumphant return—it's all here in suffocating detail. The names of judges and contestants at many competitions; the history of the teachers of his teachers. Where's the real person here? And if Cliburn finished second in a competition, the first prize winner and the competition are not-so-subtly trashed. Fortunately, the pianist is still alive, or the book would have to detail his resurrection. Even the annotated discography—probably the best thing here—is so uncritical (cf. John Ardoin's The Callas Legacy, 1977) that many music lovers will dissent from Reich's reverent appraisals of most every record. There's a legitimately interesting history here somewhere but, as written, it's strictly for the People crowd. Prospective Cliburnites are better advised to invest in the CD re-release of his legendary performances of Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto and Rachmaninoff's second. (Illustrations—16 pp. color & b&w—not seen) (First printing of 35,000)

Pub Date: May 15, 1993

ISBN: 0-8407-7681-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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