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Radio sings with memories of Van Cliburn

Van Cliburn at the Tchaikovsky Competition, 1958

Van Cliburn, 1934-2013

One of the great concert pianists of the twentieth century has departed. Van Cliburn died this morning at the age of 78. He is best remembered as the winner of the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow—a victory that contributed to the “thaw” of the Cold War in late 1950s and early 1960s.

Van Cliburn was also, from the getgo, intricately connected to radio, which passionately celebrated him in the wake of his triumph—both here and everywhere else, including Russia. Shortly after accepting the prize, he met with Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev.

“Oh, you’re very tall,” Khrushchev noted. “My father gave me so many vitamins,” Cliburn jovially responded.

“I listened to you on the radio,” Khrushchev said to Cliburn’s surprise. “I loved the way you played the F Minor Fantasy.”

I too listened to Van Cliburn on the radio, not just to enjoy his wonderfully serene style, but because he often hosted radio broadcasts of piano competitions or the concerts of other famous artists. He had a classy voice and a great big heart for struggling musicians. He himself probably would have fallen into obscurity had it not been for the Moscow breakthrough.

The Van Cliburn Foundation indefatigably promotes amateur and professional music makers, and Cliburn Radio streams a wonderful selection of great piano performances. National Public Radio has an extensive Van Cliburn page. Minnesota Public Radio is building a Spotify playlist. WQXR in New York has his Carnegie Hall debut up; Last.fm is all over the guy, as is Pandora.

Rest in peace to a great artist and philanthropist.


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2 Responses to Radio sings with memories of Van Cliburn

  1. PATRICIA REEVES March 1, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    I was fortunate enough to have heard him play in
    Saratoga eight years ago. A marvelous man – enormously talented, an enormous heart nd so humble, so very, very humble. The likes of him we will never see again.

  2. PATRICIA REEVES March 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    I CANNOT TOP READING REVIEWS OF THIS WONDERFUL MAN AND MAGNIFICENT PIANIST. HE WAS SO WARM, SO UNASSUMING, SO TALENTED, SO EVERYTHING …….. BE HAPPY IN HEAVEN BUT DON’T FORGET WE WILL REMEMBER YOU FOREVER.

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