Van Cliburn made some mistakes in the opening of his signature piece, Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, but dazzled his audience to the end as he gave a preview of his first concert tour in 16 years.
Clad in black tails and bow tie, the virtuoso, who is scheduled to perform at the Hollywood Bowl tonight, received five ovations Saturday night as he played to a near-capacity crowd of 4,600 at the outdoor Embarcadero Marina Park South.
It was more than 35 years ago that the Texan, then 23, set the classical music world on its ear when he won the prestigious piano competition in Moscow, returning to the U.S. to a New York City ticker-tape parade and, for a short time, as much acclaim as a rock 'n' roll star.
On Saturday night, concert-goers paid $35 to $250 per seat to see and hear Cliburn's preview of his 15-city, six-week North American tour, which starts tonight at the Hollywood Bowl.
"It's deja vu, " said concert-goer Kipp Charlton, of Scottsdale, Ariz., who saw Cliburn perform in 1958 after he returned from winning the First Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition.
"It takes me back 30 years. I can hear the same notes. It doesn't seem any different."