The story of a remarkable young Texan pianist, Van Cliburn, who played his way through the wall of fear built by the Cold War, won the hearts of the American and Russian people, and eased tensions between two superpowers on the brink of nuclear war.
...an engaging, richly detailed account of a remarkable man. That Van Cliburn has faded so from our collective memory is almost as astonishing as this improbable tale itself ... The book is not all politics, of course. Cliff deftly places his subject in the context of the evolving musical culture of the past two centuries.
If it is tempting to overstate the moment’s cultural and political significance, Cliburn in Russia nevertheless 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 Mr. Cliff tells it beautifully.
The narrative closely follows the young pianist's discovery and conquest of Russia, and Russia's conquest of him. The crush of fans, the tension and trials of the competition, Cliburn's quirks are all recorded here in a narrative rich with anecdotes ... But Cliff also delivers the more serious news in chapters establishing the Cold War context, the death of Stalin and the rise of Khrushchev ... All this the author handles smoothly and informatively. A cultural historian of the kind only the British seem to produce, 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.