Nigel Cliff tells the remarkable story of an iconic Cold War moment and its aftermath
In 1958, a 23-year-old Texan pianist named Van Cliburn arrived in Moscow to try his luck in the first International Tchaikovsky Competition. With Cold War tensions soaring and a Soviet pianist already selected as the intended winner, few thought an American stood an outside chance. Yet the moment the tall, boyish Texan began playing, the Soviets fell in love with his personality and his grandly romantic way with their beloved music. Amid political machinations that reached all the way to newly installed premier Nikita Khrushchev, Cliburn stormed his way to an upset victory.
The result astonished the world and launched a career that catapulted Cliburn to rock-star celebrity in both the United States and the Soviet Union. A political naïf who strove and often struggled to live up to his unsought role as a musical ambassador, Cliburn continued to play a role in pivotal Cold War events right up to the Reagan-Gorbachev summit in 1987.
Launching his new book Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story—How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War, Nigel Cliff pieces together politics, personality and pianism.
There will be a wine reception following the talk.
Sponsored by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library