VAN CLIBURN!: The Concert Pianist who Fought the Cold War and Won a Battle
The New Critics' argument that great art was a crucial weapon in our struggle with the Soviet Union found a wonderful illustration in Van Cliburn. He was the musician who won the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition by playing, before a Moscow audience, the composer's Piano Concerto Number 1 in B-flat Minor? How does one forget the first American-born classical music superstar of the 20th Century, the ONLY classical pianist that 99% of Americans could have named after April, 1958. The only classical musician ever honored with a New York City "ticker-tape parade," an event attended by an estimated 100,000 people. From his New York Times obituary (which you can only access by evading annoying gatekeeper ads): "On the night of the final round, when Mr. Cliburn performed the Tchaikovsky First Concerto, a solo work by Dmitry Kabalevsky (written as a test piece for the competition) and the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto, the audience broke into chants of “First prize! First prize!” Emil Gilels, one of the judges, went backstage to embrace him. The jury agreed with the public, and Moscow celebrated. At a Kremlin reception, Mr. Cliburn was bearhugged by Khrushchev. “Why are you so tall?” Khrushchev asked. “Because I am from Texas,” Mr. Cliburn answered."