Cold War Musical Envoy and Piano Legend Van Cliburn Dies at 78

Thursday, February 28, 2013

It was 1958. In the midst of the Cold War, the inaugural Tchaikovsky International Competition took place in Moscow. Amid a climate of fear and mutual suspicion between Americans and Russians, a 23-year-old Texan named Van Cliburn performed a breath-taking rendition of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto. 

The Russian crowds cheered. The young American was awarded first place, and with that, he became a rock star of the Russian and international classical music scene.

Van Cliburn was received as a hero at home too. At a time when Americans were still reeling from the sense of defeat from the Soviet launch of Sputnik, one of our own defeated Russia's musical greats, proving the cultural and musical greatness of the US.

Van Cliburn passed away Wednesday at the age of 78. 

Jeffrey Spurgeon, morning host of WQXR, discusses the life and legacy of Van Cliburn.

Guests:

Jeff Spurgeon

Produced by:

Mythili Rao

Comments [2]

Kenjneth Bennett Lane, ;Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner MusicDrama Institute, Boonton, NJ

IN LIEU OF ALL THE MACHINATIONS OF ERSTWHILE PUBLIC FIGURES WHOSE CLAIM TO FAME IS SOME EYE OR EAR CATCHING SPACED OUT COMMENTARY, WE SHOULD REMEMBER HOW RARE VAN CLIBURN WAS TO HAVE ACHIEVED SO MUCH WITHOUT RAISING RANCOR OR SELF ADVANCING HIMSELF. HE DID NOT HAVE ANY ENEMIES, THOUGH MANY MAT HAVE BEEN JEALOUS OF HIS ATTAINMENTS. HE WAS A REAL "MENSCH." ALL THE WORLD ADMIRED VAN CLIBURN FOR HIS GREAT TALENT AND HIS WARM OUTGOING PERSONA. A JUILLIARD ALUM MYSELF BEFORE HIS LANDMARK TSCHAIKOWSKY TRIUMPH, I, WITH HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS, WATCHED HIS TICKER TAPE PARADE AND MY MOM , BROTHER DR. BEN LANE AND I ATTENDED HIS CARNEGIE HALL CONCERT AND SPOKE WITH HIM AFTERWARD BACKSTAGE. THAT TALL , LANKY HANDSOME TEXAN DID MORE FOR A FRIENDLIER RELATIONSHIP WITH THE RUSSIANS THAN ANY POLITICIAN. THE COLD WAR THREATENING PEACE WAS MADE LESS MENACING. R.I.P. VAN CLIBURN. THE WORLD MOURNS YOUR PASSING.

Mar. 09 2013 01:23 AM
Kay Merkel Boruff from Dallas

Thanks for honoring a favorite Texas son--Van Cliburn. Cliburn enriches our lives through his music.

Feb. 28 2013 12:57 PM

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