Clifford Curzon

Piano

Schubert Club Performances:

  • January 20, 1949
  • February 10, 1955

Clifford Curzon

Artist note by Richard Evidon

Clifford Curzon, one of the finest pianists of the last century, was born in London in 1907. Revered in Britain and knighted in 1977, he was nearly as popular on this side of the Atlantic, making his first American tour in 1939 and returning almost annually after the war. The famed critic-composer Virgil Thomson once wrote in the New York Herald Tribune that “certainly no one brings to life Schubert and Schumann with quite the delicacy and the grandeur of Mr. Curzon.” From 1928 to 1930, he studied in Berlin with the great Artur Schnabel, picking up from the master, in his words, “that sort of simplicity by practice, experience, and especially reflection…Schnabel revealed musical horizons far beyond what I could possibly have imagined without him and widened and deepened my whole approach to music and to piano playing for the rest of my life.” Both artists treated each performance of the great works as a new venture into the interior of the music, but always with room left for spontaneity to bring it fully to life in the moment. Here he is performing Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood (Kinderszenen) in a 1959 BBC studio concert film:

Curzon played Brahms and Mozart concertos with the Minneapolis Symphony in 1954 and 1967. This superb performance of Mozart’s Concerto No. 23 was recorded in 1964, with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by George Szell, one of his most sympathetic collaborators:

Curzon had a special affinity for Schubert, surely fostered by his studies with Schnabel, who was the first great pianist ever to program the sonatas in public recitals. Here is the composer’s sublime last sonata, the B flat major, played by Curzon in a BBC studio recital from 1968. The concentration and nervous intensity are so palpable in close-up that it’s a little like eavesdropping:

From the Schubert Club Archive:

Clifford Curzon 1955 program cover

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Clifford Curzon 1955 promo ad

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Clifford Curzon 1955 press clipping

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Clifford Curzon 1955 concert review, Pioneer Press

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