Van Cliburn: International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow Apr. 14, 1958.
It's been 50 years since Van Cliburn kicked the Ruskies butt at their own game.
In the 1950s, more than one big-haired kid from the South shook up the world with the way he played music. Van Cliburn was a lanky and laconic 23-year-old from Texas when he won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow on Apr. 14, 1958.
It was at the height of the Cold War, with the U.S. and the Soviet Union posturing over Berlin, nuclear tests and the space race. The competition's judges reportedly asked Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev if they could really give first place to an American. Khrushchev replied, "Is he the best piano player? Then give it to him."
Cliburn returned home to a ticker-tape parade in New York, as well as international celebrity. His recording of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 was the first classical recording to sell more than a million copies.