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Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story-How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War
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HarperCollins 2016
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"A rousing, well-researched biography" of the Texan piano prodigy who crossed the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War (Kirkus, starred review).
A National Book Critic's Circle Finalist
In 1958, an unheralded young pianist named Van Cliburn traveled to Moscow to compete in the First International Tchaikovsky Competition. The Soviets had no intention of bestowing their coveted prize on an unknown American; a Russian pianist had already been chosen to win. Yet when the gangly Texan with the shy grin began to play, he instantly captivated an entire nation.
The Soviet people were charmed by Van Cliburn's extraordinary talent, but it was his palpable love for the music that earned their devotion; for many, he played more like a Russian than their own musicians. As enraptured crowds mobbed Cliburn's performances, pressure mounted to award him the competition prize. "Is he the best?" Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev demanded of the judges. "In that case . . . give him the prize!"
Adored by millions in the USSR, Cliburn returned to a hero's welcome in the USA and became, for a time, an ambassador of hope. In this thrilling, impeccably researched account, Nigel Cliff recreates the drama and tension of the Cold War era, and brings into focus the gifted musician whose music would temporarily bridge the divide between two dangerously hostile powers.
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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
09/20/2016
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780062333186
ASIN:
B019WVIZK4
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APA Citation (style guide)

Nigel Cliff. (2016). Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story-How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War. HarperCollins.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Nigel Cliff. 2016. Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story-How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War. HarperCollins.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Nigel Cliff, Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story-How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War. HarperCollins, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Nigel Cliff. Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story-How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War. HarperCollins, 2016.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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        Nigel Cliff is a historian, biographer, and translator. His first book, The Shakespeare Riots, was a finalist for the National Award for Arts Writing and was chosen as one of the Washington Post's best books of the year. His second book, The Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages of Vasco da Gama, was a New York Times Notable Book. His most recent book is a translation and edition of The Travels by Marco Polo. A former film and theater critic for the London Times and contributor to The Economist, he writes for a range of publications, including the New York Times Book Review. A Fellow of Harris Manchester College, Oxford, he lives in London.

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Moscow Nights
fullDescription
"A rousing, well-researched biography" of the Texan piano prodigy who crossed the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War (Kirkus, starred review).
A National Book Critic's Circle Finalist
In 1958, an unheralded young pianist named Van Cliburn traveled to Moscow to compete in the First International Tchaikovsky Competition. The Soviets had no intention of bestowing their coveted prize on an unknown American; a Russian pianist had already been chosen to win. Yet when the gangly Texan with the shy grin began to play, he instantly captivated an entire nation.
The Soviet people were charmed by Van Cliburn's extraordinary talent, but it was his palpable love for the music that earned their devotion; for many, he played more like a Russian than their own musicians. As enraptured crowds mobbed Cliburn's performances, pressure mounted to award him the competition prize. "Is he the best?" Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev demanded of the judges. "In that case . . . give him the prize!"
Adored by millions in the USSR, Cliburn returned to a hero's welcome in the USA and became, for a time, an ambassador of hope. In this thrilling, impeccably researched account, Nigel Cliff recreates the drama and tension of the Cold War era, and brings into focus the gifted musician whose music would temporarily bridge the divide between two dangerously hostile powers.
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: New York Times Book Review
      • content:

        "With his gold-medal performance in Moscow, Van Cliburn added a human face to the Cold War...A nuanced account." — New York Times Book Review

        "Nigel Cliff... has written a freshly sourced account of these momentous Moscow nights. He places them aptly at the heart of the nuclear conflict and poignantly in the personal odyssey of a lanky, gay pianist from a small prairie town who never wanted to do much except play Russian music." — Economist

        "Absorbing...Cliff is at home in Texan, American, Russian, political and piano cultures. . . . a solid history of a most remarkable young man caught at a most remarkable time. — Dallas Morning News

        "An elegant, insightful and ultimately definitive account of one of the 20th century's most compelling events, and the extraordinary artist and person at the heart of it." — Houston Chronicle

        "[Cliff's] fresh perspective, combined with deep research and a genuine gift for narrative, restores a neglected chapter of American musical and political history to vivid—and contemporaneously relevant life." — Madison Searle, Texas Music

        "Brings to life Van Cliburn's unexpected triumph and its continuing implications for Soviet-American relations through the end of the Cold War... an engaging account of an extraordinary historical moment." — Shelf Awareness

        "Cliburn in Russia offers a fascinating perspective on a decade of nuclear tests, espionage schemes and efforts to close the missile gap. This story is to the Cold War what ping-pong diplomacy was to President Nixon's opening to China. It is both entertaining and illuminating, and Cliff tells it beautifully." — Wall Street Journal

        "A beautifully done biography of one of the Cold War's most famous and unlikely characters..." — Boston Globe "Best Book of 2016"

        "The newest biography on the life of Van Cliburn is a masterpiece ...As an account of the political climate and cultural events that the genius musician found himself in as a young man, MOSCOW NIGHTS may long stand as an enthralling resource for historians, audiophiles, and the general public alike." — Fort Worth Weekly

        "An elegant, insightful and ultimately definitive account of one of the 20th century's most compelling events, and the extraordinary artist and person at the heart of it." — Fort Worth Star-Telegram; Houston Chronicle

        "Nigel Cliff... has written a freshly sourced account of these momentous Moscow nights. He places them aptly at the heart of the nuclear conflict and poignantly in the personal odyssey of a lanky, gay pianist from a small prairie town who never wanted to do much except play Russian music." — The Economist

        "Cliff... successfully evokes Cliburn's intuitive musicianship." — New Yorker

        "Astonishing... an engaging, richly detailed account of a remarkable man." — Christian Science Monitor

        "Cliff's authentic depiction of life during the cold war transports us into a sinister bygone age, while insightful descriptions provide a rare glimpse of [Cliburn's] sometimes fragile mindset...Cliff's vivid retelling of the dramatic story and its aftermath will have readers perched on the edge of their seat." — The Lady

        "Part musical biography, part nostalgic look at the hula-hoop era and part Cold War history, MOSCOW NIGHTS strikes the...

      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from July 25, 2016
        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.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        Starred review from July 15, 2016
        The glorious career of the Texan pianist who captured Russian hearts during the Cold War era.When he was 3 years old, Van Cliburn (1934-2013) told his mother, a piano teacher, that he wanted lessons; at 4, he gave his first concert, at a local college; at 5, he declared he was going to be a concert pianist, like Rachmaninoff. Cliburn exceeded that dream: in 1958, at 23, he won first prize in Russia's first International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition, a feat that catapulted him to rock-star celebrity. Beloved by Russians, Khrushchev included, and by his own countrymen, Cliburn seemed a balm to Cold War hostilities. Biographer, translator, and journalist Cliff (The Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages of Vasco Da Gama, 2012, etc.), former film and theater critic for the London Times, faces two challenges in his rousing, well-researched biography: the first, ably met, is to convey Cliburn's astonishing talent and sound; he was "ecstatically lyrical, thrillingly Romantic, and symphonic in scale." The second challenge, not as fully achieved, is to create an intimate portrait of a man who rebuffed probing questions and carefully honed stories he--and his ever hovering mother-- told interviewers and biographers. He was the shy, God-fearing, gangly boy from Texas, warm, effusive, and modest. "When fans told him he had changed their lives, he was genuinely amazed," writes Cliff. "When public figures extolled him as a hero, he all but scoffed." But if he did not believe his own legend, still that legend became his public image: "His friends adored him, protected him, smiled at his foibles, and spoke of him with a warm glow--but few felt they really knew him." Cliff reveals Cliburn's interest in astrology and the occult; the scandal that resulted when his male companion sued for palimony and lost; and his nine-year retirement, a response to the pressures of fame. Throughout, the author vividly reprises major historical events: Sputnik, Khrushchev's blustering speeches, the Berlin Wall, Maoist oppression, and Nixon's visit to China. Sweeping history combines with a sensitive rendering of Cliburn's extraordinary passion.

        COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        Starred review from August 1, 2016

        This book examines one of the most iconic moments of the Cold War: Van Cliburn's (born Harvey Lavan "Van" Cliburn Jr.) 1958 victory in the piano contest at the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Historian and critic Cliff (The Shakespeare Riots) combines biography and history, telling the story of the small-town Texas boy and his improbable triumph, as well as the larger history of Soviet-American relations. Cliburn's career intersected in an unusual way with events in the Soviet Union, and he had a warm relationship with many Russians, including Nikita Khrushchev. Cliburn played for U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon, often at official state functions, and by request for Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, during the 1987 Ronald Reagan-Gorbachev summit. Some writing on Cliburn (such as Howard Reich's The Van Cliburn Story) tend toward hagiography, but Cliff presents a sympathetic yet rounded portrait of the pianist--devout Baptist, devotee of astrology, conservative yet gay, a builder of international goodwill but often politically naive. Cliff's sources include many Russian-language materials. VERDICT Highly recommended for readers interested in music (especially classical music and the piano) and the history of the Cold War.--Bruce R. Schueneman, Texas A&M Univ. Lib., Kingsville

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

popularity
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shortDescription
"A rousing, well-researched biography" of the Texan piano prodigy who crossed the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War (Kirkus, starred review).
A National Book Critic's Circle Finalist
In 1958, an unheralded young pianist named Van Cliburn traveled to Moscow to compete in the First International Tchaikovsky Competition. The Soviets had no intention of bestowing their coveted prize on an unknown American; a Russian pianist had already been chosen to win. Yet when the gangly Texan with the shy grin began to play, he instantly captivated an entire nation.
The Soviet people were charmed by Van Cliburn's extraordinary talent, but it was his palpable love for the music that earned their devotion; for many, he played more like a Russian than their own musicians. As enraptured crowds mobbed Cliburn's performances, pressure mounted to award him the competition prize. "Is he the best?" Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev demanded of the judges. "In that...
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      • source: The National Book Critics Circle
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subtitle
The Van Cliburn Story-How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War
publisher
HarperCollins
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      • description: Biography & Autobiography / Composers & Musicians
      • code: BIO006000
      • description: Biography & Autobiography / Historical
      • code: HIS032020
      • description: HISTORY / Russia / Soviet Era