Perfection & Greatness

March 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm 3 comments

When the incredibly talented Van Cliburn died last week, I was deeply saddened.  One of his signature pieces, is also one of my most favorite pieces of music – of all genres – Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #1.  Every time I hear the first few minutes of the opening movement, I am brought to tears.  There are no other words to describe this piece – it is simply stunning.

The first time I heard this symphony was on an album in which Van Cliburn performed.  It was breathtaking.  Now, as I watch the YouTube videos and listen to the digitally re-mastered versions, I still tear up and my heart skips a beat.  The interesting thing is his performance was beyond anything that digital re-mastering could tweak.  In other words, he was perfect ‘as is’.  Which brings me to the purpose of this post…………………….

Back in the mid-90’s, I lived in Toledo, Ohio for a few years.  In those days, we did not have the internet and I used to read the Toledo Blade – a newspaper.  I came across a letter to the editor which knocked me off of my chair.  It was about Van Cliburn and his performance with The Toledo Symphony.  First of all, I was upset that I was not in attendance to witness this event.  Second of all, I was struck by the beauty of this letter.

I do not have the original review (it was reviewed twice) – cannot recall reading it, but apparently Mr. Cliburn’s performance was incredible, passionate – phenomenal.  However, there was mention of the fact that Mr. Cliburn played a few wrong notes during his encore’s.  The letter to the editor was written by Andrew Massey who was, at the time, the Musical Director for The Toledo Symphony.  He made an extraordinary comment –

“There is a special intensity and complexity to every phrase when Van Cliburn plays, which I found riveting throughout the weekend.  True, he played a few wrong notes, but to concentrate on that is to confuse perfection with greatness.  Perfection is about the absence of mistakes.  Greatness is about taking risks and storming the heights.”

Mr. Massey continues on – discussing what makes great live music something of a different order from an edited recording.  It involves danger and daring.”

I kept this review – it is a yellowed piece of newsprint with the green ink used to make note of the perfection vs greatness quote.  I keep it in a special book, given to me by my mom, with bits and pieces of knowledge I have acquired through the years.  Inspirational sayings, poems, doodles – things that have special meaning to me.

This particular piece meant the most and on many levels, after many years, still does.  Striving for perfection takes a great deal of risk and many times we have to go to places we do not want to go, but we have to try, if perfection is what we want. Whether we find it or acquire it – may or may not happen.  The only way we can find out is if we try – take the risk, take a flying leap, do the best we can.  If it happens great.  If not, well, there is always tomorrow.  We take what we learned and try again.  As my first dancer teacher used to say you must try again, then again, then again……”

Mr. Van Cliburn  – May You Rest In Peace.



Entry filed under: art, artist, beauty, discipline, goals, gratitude, in memory of, inspiration, life, memory, music, Personal, ponderings, questions, stage, symphony, theater, thoughts, words, writing. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

punch + kick = ahhhhhh….. to choose

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. rebeccazenker  |  March 5, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    The power of words…

  • 2. Amba  |  March 5, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    That was beautiful. It is an important message that I would like to remember-never to confuse perfection with greatness. I find it so hard to be forgiving when I make mistakes. In my quest for perfection, I realize that I am losing out on the lessons that my mistakes are giving me. I need to stop, take stock, and keep on trying despite my failings as a human being. 🙂 Thank you for this wonderful message Kimberly.

    • 3. words4jp  |  March 5, 2013 at 6:43 pm

      you are welcome. it is a hard lesson to learn – because perfection is a tricky concept – we all have our own definition. when i was younger it was about being perfect – anything less is nothing. as i have gotten older i have learned that i do my best – i strive for perfection, but i realize it may not happen and if it doesn’t, i will try again. At least i tried and did the best i could. Sometimes that is all I/we can do at a given time:)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,312 other followers

The Archives

Natalie Breuer

Natalie. Writer. Photographer. Etc.

Kitty-Kat Chronicles

writing and artsy free spirit

Painted Poems

Make your life a poem.

%d bloggers like this: