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Praise for "When the World Stopped to Listen"

"A great book about a great American musician who, in the tensions of Cold War, helped move our world from war to peace."
— Sergei Khrushchev


"Exciting, thorough, and deeply moving... a most satisfying experience."
— Emanuel Ax


"...Marvelously researched and written. I couldn't put the book down."
— Yefim Bronfman


"Beautifully written, this is an insider's report of the onstage and offstage drama around the 1958 triumph of Van Cliburn and the incredible musical events that led to a Cold War 'thaw'..."
— AndrĂ© Watts


"A spellbinding, even a startling, adventure story, starring the legendary American pianist: a life of triumph and tragedy."
— David Dubal


"[Cliburn's] triumph and subsequent career can be understood only in the context of Cold War political, social, and musical tensions, a heady mix that Stuart Isacoff examines with unusual skill."
— Garrick Ohlsson

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When the World Stopped to Listen

NEW YORK: KNOPF
2017
304 pages

When the World Stopped to Listen

Van Cliburn's Cold War Triumph, and Its Aftermath


From the acclaimed author of The Natural History of the Piano, the captivating story of the 1958 international piano competition in Moscow, where, at the height of Cold War tensions, an American musician showed the potential of art to change the world.

April of 1958 — the Iron Curtain was at its heaviest, and the outcome of the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition seemed preordained. Nonetheless, as star musicians from across the globe descended on Moscow, an unlikely favorite emerged: Van Cliburn, a polite, lanky Texan whose passionate virtuosity captured the Russian spirit.

This is the story of what unfolded that spring — for Cliburn and the other competitors, jurors, party officials, and citizens of the world who were touched by the outcome. It is a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most remarkable events in musical history, filled with political intrigue and personal struggle as artists strove for self-expression and governments jockeyed for prestige. And, at the core of it all: the value of artistic achievement, the supremacy of the heart, and the transcendent freedom that can be found, through music, even in the darkest moments of human history.