Sunday, March 14, 2010

* How Does History Work?

The Cuban Missile Crisis, October 18-29, 1962

March 1, 2008 - 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."

(NPR Broadcast)

Bullies & Bullets: Flowers & Kisses

How does history work? The performance of Van Cliburn playing the Rachmaninoff Third (Rock Three it is called because of its almost super-human technical demands) is shown on Classic Arts Network now and then.

When I saw the performance again today, I was impressed by the music and Cliburn's almost hypnotic state during the performance, but even more so by Cliburn's graciousness at its conclusion: he kisses Kirill Kondrashin, the conductor, on the lips ( daring for even a European audience in the 1950's)and later hands him the flowers the audience had presented to him (Cliburn) and again kisses Kondrashi, this time on the hand.

When children bring Cliburn flowers on stage, he gushes with appreciation; when the audience bravos, he throws them kisses.

Small gestures you say?

Well, yes.

But maybe history works through flowers and kisses as much as through bullies and bullets.


"Trust, but verify."

President Ronald Reagan

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