On May 19, 1958, some five weeks after winning the first Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, Van Cliburn gave a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall that was broadcast live on WQXR.
Joined by the Soviet conductor Kiril Kondrashin and the Symphony of the Air, the performance was billed as Cliburn's American broadcast debut and it featured the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor. As encores, he presented a movement of Rachmaninoff's Etude Tableaux Op. 39 and Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12.
The Symphony of the Air begins the evening with Prokofiev's Classical Symphony.
One senses the audience's excitement in the lengthy ovations at several points during the evening. (Curious aside: host Peter Allen notes that Carnegie had exceeded its capacity of 80 standing room spots that night, violating fire department regulations.)
The concert also features lengthy, somewhat rambling remarks by New York City mayor Robert A. Wagner. He concludes: "we're so proud of what he's done, not only in the field of music, but in the field of international relations, bringing people closer together."
Tune in to WQXR this Sunday at 12 pm for a special one-hour show about Van Cliburn hosted by David Dubal.
Right: Van Cliburn backstage at Carnegie Hall (courtesy of Carnegie Hall Archives).
With production assistance from NYPR Archives, Margaret Kelley and Jeff Spurgeon. 1958 backstage photo, right, courtesy of Carnegie Hall.