Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story; How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War

Nigel Cliff. Harper, $28.99 (496p) ISBN 978-0-06-233316-2
Cliff brilliantly weaves together the politics, personalities, and pianism surrounding the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958. This portrait of a Cold War moment focuses on two remarkable people. The first is Van Cliburn, the courtly, eager 23-year-old from Kilgore, Tex., who combined a winning American openness with a heartfelt love of Russian music. The second is Nikita Khrushchev, an eccentric peasants’ son who survived Stalin and went on to undo the worst of his oppressions. Riding high on the success of Sputnik and Soviet nuclear advances, Khrushchev saw the proposed music competition as a way to assert the U.S.S.R.’s cultural preeminence. The program was heavily weighted to Russian music, and many potential competitors felt that a foreigner would not be allowed to win. But Cliburn’s mother and teachers had instilled in him a love of Russian repertoire that Moscow audiences grasped from round one. Khrushchev railed against Stalin’s cult of personality but did not stand in the way of Cliburn’s. This is a well-researched, fascinating look at a special relationship between Van Cliburn and the U.S.S.R. that lasted through low points (the downed U-2, the Cuban missile crisis) and high ones, all the way up to the 1987 summit that resulted in eliminating most of the world’s strategic nuclear arsenal. Agent: Henry Dunow, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/25/2016
Release date: 09/20/2016
Ebook - 464 pages - 978-0-06-233318-6
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-0-06-233317-9
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