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Image for Van Cliburn

Harvey Levan "Van" Cliburn

Harvey Lavan "Van" Cliburn, Jr., (July 12, 1934 – February 27, 2013) has been called an American hero, hailed as one of the most persuasive ambassadors of American culture as well as one of the greatest pianists in the history of music. With his historic 1958 victory in the first Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow at the height of the Cold War, Van Cliburn tore down cultural barriers years ahead of glasnost and perestroika, reaching out across political frontiers with a universal message all could greet with joy: the message of beautiful music. Cliburn was the first musician ever honored with a ticker-tape parade in New York City, a true hero's welcome and a show of gratitude for an American victory on the heels of the Soviet Union's launching of Sputnik. Again reaching across cultural borders, Cliburn invited the Russian conductor Kirill Kondrashin to come to New York and reprise the performances that had earned the young American the gold medal in Moscow.

Video and Audio

Van Cliburn performs Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1

Short audio clip