Skip to main content

In the Beginning: the First Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, 1962: Van, the inspiration

Introduction

This exhibit is offered in connection with the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Archive at Texas Christian University. Images and documents are clickable in order to enlarge images or view complete items. For more on the competitions, see the archivist's Guide to the Van Cliburn Competitions. Exhibit materials should be used in accordance with copyright laws.  Contact:  l.ruede@tcu.edu.

The 1962 poster

Benefit concert

Cartoon immortality

Van Cliburn's triumph in the First Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958, during the Cold War, inspired the creation of a namesake competition, to be held in Fort Worth, Texas.

"Master Bear Charmer," 1959, by editorial cartoonist Harold Maples, commemorated Cliburn's Tchaikovsky victory.  View this item in the Harold Maples Collection, TCU Library Special Collections digital repository.

Cliburn's role in the first competition

Dr. Irl Allison, founder, listed most of the contributions Cliburn made to the competition, notably a benefit concert (left).

More on Van Cliburn and the Cold War

Also reflecting Van's Cold War capture of Russia's piano prize - and its people's hearts - is Stuart Isacoff's new book from Knopf.  The TCU community can read the ebook online; others can preview online at Amazon and Google Books or the publisher's site.

The story of Van's win

Moscow Nights, published by HarperCollins, used materials from the Van Cliburn Piano Competition Archive and many other sources.  Author Nigel Cliff takes us back to 1958, when Van Cliburn won the first Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, despite tensions between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.  Samples can be read online at HarperCollins and Amazon.  Also out from Knopf is Stuart Isacoff's When the World Stopped to Listen: Van Cliburn's Cold War Triumph.

More on Cliburn's role in the first competition

In a foreword from the 1962 competition program Van Cliburn spoke modestly about his role in the competition's creation.

Cliburn caused a kerfuffle, however, when he persuaded competition personnel to expand the number of contestants in both the semifinals and finals of the 1962 inaugural competition.

Competing competitions