March 2, 2013

Regarding the Feb. 28 front-page obituary “Texas pianist shot to fame with his unlikely Cold War coup”:  

What a fitting tribute to the great pianist Van Cliburn. I had the pleasure of attending one of his concerts in the Kennedy Center. It was in 1976, give or take. My date dragged me there, more or less, seeing how I was not so polished regarding the arts. We waited outside the auditorium. My date? Impatient. Me? Perturbed. Suddenly the doors opened. She rushed in, pulling me along, toward seats up close to a monstrous grand piano. 

The audience hushed. In came that rather tall and lanky piano master. The audience reacted wildly as he somewhat hurriedly, if not impatiently, strode to the piano. The applause slowly died, and I hunkered down for what seemed sure to be a boring evening. 

No sooner had Mr. Cliburn sat down and his fingers touched the keys than the unexpected but stunning first notes of “The Star-Spangled Banner” thundered out. I leapt to my feet, as did everyone else. Actually, I felt as if I had been yanked to my feet.

I have no recollection of other scores Mr. Cliburn played that night, but his first piece I will never forget. I feel blessed to have this memory.   

John R. Culclasure, Fairfax