Wednesday, February 27, 2013


I don't remember a time in my life when I didn't know of Van Cliburn. From small-town east Texas, he became a legend--and one of my heroes--of both classical music as well as cultural diplomacy. When the Soviets sent Sputnik into space, the US sent Cliburn to Moscow, where he dazzled apparatchik and layperson alike. His win at the 1958 Tchaikovsky International Competition had to be personally sanctioned by Khrushchev himself, who asked the hesitant judges, "Is he the best?" The answer was a resounding, "Да!" His legacy and legend did more for American-Soviet peace than all the ideologues, politicians, and Cold Warriors together.

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