This review contains quotes from the book.
*Special thanks to Harper Perennial for allowing us to read Nigel Cliff’s Moscow Nights.
Nigel Cliff describes Van Cliburn and how he tried to help bridge the gap between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War in Moscow Nights.
“At any moment, fear and mistrust threatened to unfix the stays of civilization, of human feeling and sanity itself, to the point where a handful of men could envisage destroying the world rather than allow opponents whom they had never met to win. Not for a moment did anyone suppose that classical music would make a particle of difference.”
– excerpt from Nigel Cliff’s Moscow Nights
In 1958, Van Cliburn was considered to be a twenty-three year old piano prodigy. This was also the year when he traveled to Moscow for the International Tchaikovsky Competition. He surprised the Soviets with his talent because before the competition began, they already decided who would win – and it was not going to be an American.
But when Cliburn began to play the piano, he literally enchanted entire nations with his talent. What really struck the Soviets was Cliburn’s love for music and they realized that he sounded more like a Russian compared to actual Russian players. People begged and pleaded for him to win the prize of the competition and Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev ended up giving him the prize because he was the best there.
When Cliburn returned home to the United States, he was adored by many. He gave people hope during the Cold War. People thought that if he could win over the Soviets with his piano playing, then there could be peace between the two nations. Cliff does an excellent job with capturing the anxiety that the Cold War brought during that time. Also, he highlights Cliburn as a symbol that could help these two nations end the Cold War.
Cliff was able to capture everything that Cliburn did during his time with the Soviets, as well as the events that followed when he returned home. This book goes into great detail of Cliburn’s life and what led him to this crucial point in history. Cliburn was only twenty-three years old, but he brought hope to two huge nations. That is a big freaking deal.
It was an honor to read about Cliburn and his journey through the Cold War. Cliff did a good job describing everything that went down with the competition in the Soviet Union and what it meant for Cliburn after the fact. I would never have known this part of history if it were not for this book, so I thank you, Nigel Cliff.
I would recommend Moscow Nights to history buffs or anyone who wants to know more about the Cold War from a new perspective.