Van Cliburn, Moscow, 1958

Van Cliburn, Moscow, 1958

Paul Craig Roberts

The Cold War could have ended that year with the Moscow success of the American concert pianist Van Cliburn.
An American performed Russian music better than the Russian pianists. The Russians could have sabotaged Van Cliburn by leaving some piano keys out of tune or by the conductor changing pace on him. But the Russian conductor recognized greatness and contributed to it. In all my years of concert attendance I have never seen such an outpouring of applause, affection, and flowers with which the Russians greeted Van Cliburn’s performance. The judges asked Khrushchev, “Can we give the American the prize?” “Was he the best?” asked Khrushchev. “Yes.” “Then give him the prize.”

Today we are barbarians compared to the darkest days of the Cold War. We ban Russian musicians, artists, athletes, literature, impose sanctions, insult the President of Russia, and foment war. President Reagan, America’s last president, would never have permitted such barbaric behavior as now characterizes the White House and the American government. But perhaps we no longer have an American government.

At a crucial point in the Cold War President Reagan called Van Cliburn out of retirement to play for Gorbachev in the White House, and Reagan and Gorbachev went on to end the Cold War.

Now the Washington barbarians have resurrected the Cold War in a hot and much more dangerous form.

Here is Van Cliburn performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1, probably one of the more difficult of all piano concertos, followed by Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and encores:

Today Van Cliburn would be branded a “Russian agent/dupe” and he would be pulled off the airliner and his passport confiscated as he attempted to fly to Moscow to enter the Tchaikovsky competition.

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