In 1958, a 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. 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.

Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award

A Boston Globe Best Book of 2016

“Fascinating…entertaining and illuminating…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

“A masterpiece” — Fort Worth Weekly

“Entertaining … delightful … magnificent” —StarTribune

“Cliff portrays Cliburn as a musical savant, full of contradictions” — The New Yorker

“Cliff brilliantly weaves together politics, personalities, and pianism” — Publishers Weekly

“Essential reading” — Terry Teachout, Commentary

“A thrilling delight…compulsively readable” — Booklist

“Astonishing…engaging, richly detailed” — Christian Science Monitor

“Gripping, fast-moving, novel-like… by turns tense and tender.” — Mojo

“A captivating story that will transfix the reader.” — The Lady

“An elegant, insightful and ultimately definitive account of one of the 20th century’s most compelling events.” — Fort Worth Star-Telegram; Houston Chronicle

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