Van Cliburn Day Ceremonies

Tuesday, May 20, 1958

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Juilliard President William Schuman jokingly changes the pronunciation of Mayor Wagner's echo the German pronunciation. He speaks of the triumph in Moscow and what it means for American music's reputation around the world.

Next, Juilliard alumnus composer Richard Rodgers speaks with pride of New York City, Juilliard, and the diplomacy of Van Cliburn.

Pianist and composer Abram Chasins speaks. He contrasts the view of the arts in United States versus in the Soviet Union, for too long the US has neglected the natural talents here. Music can speak to everyone, musicians can rush in where statesmen fear to tread. He also praises Mayor Robert F. Wagner for his support of the arts.

Wagner introduces the chairman of this luncheon Robert Dowling, who is headed to the Soviet Union on behalf of President Eisenhower to speak at a cultural exchange program. He presents the first Van Cliburn Award to Madame Rosina Lhévinne. The award is intended for a teacher who cultivates the art of music in his or her students. Levine speaks briefly, expressing her gratitude. Levine was Cliburn’s piano teacher at Juilliard.

Next, Kirill Kondrashin is introduced to the audience. Kondrashin speaks to the audience via a translator. He expresses his thanks to the audience and praises Van Cliburn.

Van Cliburn reads a letter he is sending via Robert Dowling to Mr. Vladimirov at the Ministry of Culture in Russia. He extends his thanks via Vladimirov to everyone for their "kindness, love, sincerity, friendship," particularly he mentions the Soviet press, his interpreter and his fellow musicians.

Mayor Robert F. Wagner, introduced as a music lover, speaks and presents a medal of the City of New York to Van Cliburn, an "outstanding musician and an envoy of good will." Wagner jokes about his own shortcomings as a violin player.

Van Cliburn accepts the medal, says a few words, asking the audience to say a prayer for him, that he is able to live up this honor. He then plays a piece on the piano.

Rev. Richard Hamilton gives the benediction.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 8329
Municipal archives id: LT8028


Abram Chasins, Van Cliburn, Robert W. Dowling, Kirill Kondrashin, Rosina Lhevinne and Robert F. Wagner


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Programs ranging from the 1930s to the 1970s covering a variety of cultural and political topics.

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