“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)
From the Back Cover
In 1958, an unheralded twenty-three-year-old piano prodigy from Texas 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 Soviet pianist had already been chosen to win. Yet when the gangly Texan with the shy grin took the stage and began to play, he instantly captivated an entire nation.
The Soviet people were charmed by Cliburn’s extraordinary talent, passion, and fresh-faced innocence, 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 thunderous hero’s welcome in the United States and became, for a time, an ambassador of hope and peace. 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 and deeply compelling figure whose music would temporarily bridge the divide between two dangerously hostile powers.