The Van Cliburn Story

Unabridged Audiobook

Written By: Howard Reich

Narrated By: Tom Taylorson

Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks

Date: November 2015

Duration: 11 hours 42 minutes


When a lanky, unpretentious, incredibly gifted, twenty-three-year-old Texan took Moscow by musical storm in 1958, it launched a sensational career that began at the age of thirteen and was to span over four decades. At the height of the Cold War, this friendly, open-hearted pianist enchanted the hearts of Americans and Russians alike with playing that was more about "personal communications than exhibitionistic virtuosity." Winning the Soviet-sponsored Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition immediately thrust Van Cliburn into political as well as artistic pressures, attention, adulation, and scrutiny that might have sabotaged any young artist who lacked the confidence and conviction of Van Cliburn.

After an eleven-year retreat into privacy, the myth that surrounded the name Van Cliburn in the 1950s and '60s became legend with his triumphant reentry in 1987?an event that was to epitomize the poetic nature of Van's entire life. Responding to an invitation to perform for Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev at a state dinner, Van once again proved that music is indeed the universal language of understanding and is capable of uniting our diverse cultures. Bounding off the platform after his performance to kiss Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev, Van responded to Raisa's request for more music by playing the beloved Soviet song "Moscow Nights"?the same nostalgic song he had learned and performed during his first incredible journey to Moscow in 1958.

As millions of Americans watched on their television screens, the usual staid state dinner dissolved into a moving memory of Van singing along with the Gorbachevs as the whole room was overcome by tears. Russia and America joined hands and hearts in this one historical moment.

"The most moving part of the the account of Cliburn's love affair with the Russian people at the height of the Cold War."-Publishers Weekly


  • Chris Markham

    It is fascinating to see the links with Cliburn’s life in history, politics (the cold war) through his piano playing. We hear in immense detail about the influences on Cliburn’s life. This is Reich’s laudable attempt to explain the man, so we can understand how he became the pianist and person he was. So, it is surprising that there is not one single mention of the (at least two men) that Cliburn shared much of his adult life with. What’s being gay got to do with playing the piano you might ask. But consider, if Cliburn had been a pianist who was a woman, or a pianist who was black - taking the world by storm winning the 1958 Tchaikovsky Completion at the height of the cold war - do you think Reich might have mentioned that en passant? Intense and very good coverage of the musical and personal life of a pianist with a far-reaching effect on the world, bar this one silly omission.

Van Cliburn Story

by Howard Reich

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Van Cliburn Story, Howard Reich