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1950s / Van Cliburn - Moscow 1958
A truly historic classical music performance: In 1958, at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union hosted an international Tchaikovsky compeition for pianists. It was supposed to showcase the superiority of Soviet culture. To the surprise of the hosts, a 23-year-old Texan named Van Cliburn emerged as the superstar of the event. Cliburn mesmerized the crowds, the television audience, and the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra with his technical and artistic brilliance. Here is the last four minutes of Cliburn's final performance of the event--Rachmaninoff's 3rd Concerto. Look at the reaction from the audience and the orchestra members. The applause lasted for about eight minutes. Everyone knew who the outstanding pianist of the competition was! This created quite a dilemma for the organizers: a Soviet citizen was expected to win--not an American. Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev was hastily telephoned to make the final decision. To his credit Khruschev settled the matter quickly and fairly: "Was he the best? Yes? Then give him the prize!" Cliburn became a beloved figure in Russia until his death in 2013.