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The American Pianist Who Rocked Russia for Decades

Van Cliburn in a ticker-tape parade in 1958 after winning the Moscow International Tchaikovsky Competition. He's the only musician to ever receive a ticker-tape parade tribute in New York City.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 would have been the 82nd birthday of celebrated American pianist Van Cliburn,  who died in 2013. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, Van Cliburn's 1958 win in the Soviet Union’s first International Tchaikovsky Competition was a welcome sign of warmth in the midst of Cold War tensions.


Watch Van Cliburn play Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No.3 in 1958 in Moscow:


Video of Van Cliburn playing the first movement from Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in Moscow in 1962:


Listen to more of Susan Lewis' conversation with Russian-born pianist Inna Lobanova-Heasley about how Van Cliburn and his music were received in Russia at the 1958 competition, and in the years following. Inna reflects about the impact Van Cliburn had on her growing up in Russia, and his immense popularity in her homeland.

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.