Reappearing act

It seems strange that the man who is practically synonymous with classical music in the metroplex--pianist Van Cliburn--hasn't performed a solo recital in the area in more than 20 years. But Cliburn has always been seen as something of an eccentric, at least by classical-music standards. His behavior is not that bizarre, although he did take a nine-year sabbatical at the height of his popularity. Other than that, his strangest habit is playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the beginning of every concert. Not exactly Dennis Rodman territory.

Cliburn can afford to be unconventional if he wants. When he burst onto the classical-music scene 40 years ago, he was a young man who was already deep into a career. His victory at the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow came more than a decade after he first played with the Houston Symphony at age 12. His triumph in Moscow led to a ticker-tape parade in New York (the only time a classical musician has received such an honor), and it helped his recording of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 become the first classical recording to go platinum. Since then, he has become one of the most successful artists in American classical music, performing with almost every major orchestra and conductor in every prominent international concert hall, as well as playing for every American president since Harry S Truman and numerous dignitaries from around the world.

About the only place he hasn't played is the metroplex--at least for the last 20 years. He's popped up from time to time--he played the national anthem at the inaugural game at The Ballpark in Arlington--but, for the most part, his only appearances in the area have been at the international piano competitions he sponsors. Fittingly, Cliburn's first local recital in two decades will also be the first concert ever at the new Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth.

He certainly knows how to make a comeback.

Van Cliburn performs at the Bass Performance Hall, located at Fourth and Commerce in Fort Worth, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The concert is sold out, but a limited number of tickets is expected to be available on the day of the concert. Call (817) 335-9000.

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