Arts / Performing Arts

World Renowned Piano Showdown Brings its Magic Back to Fort Worth — Your Van Cliburn Guide

How You Can See the World's Best Pianists For Free

BY // 02.04.22

One of Fort Worth’s most talented sons arrived in Moscow with the weight of the world on his shoulders. At the height of the Cold War, with the space race at a fever pitch after the Soviets successfully launched Sputnik, tensions and expectations could not have been higher.

That’s why the eyes of the world were trained on Moscow as contestants arrived for the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958. One Texan stood taller than the rest. The 6-foot-4, 23-year-old completely composed Van Cliburn was not expected to win the contest, which had been designed to demonstrate Soviet cultural superiority.

But his undisputed preeminence could not be denied, even by Khrushchev. What flowed from the shy, pianist’s fingertips was a revelation. Van Cliburn returned home to America (and Fort Worth) to a hero’s welcome and a ticker tape parade.

The first Van Cliburn International Piano Competition was led by volunteers and held in his honor in 1962 in Van Cliburn’s hometown of Fort Worth.

Van Cliburn – Yekwon Sunwoo was named winner of the Fifteenth Cliburn Competition
Yekwon Sunwoo was named winner of the Fifteenth Cliburn Competition.

The competition is now widely recognized as one of the most prestigious piano competitions in the world, bringing in international talent every four years. 2022 is a Van Cliburn year and the 16th competition will be held between June 2 to 18 at Van Cliburn Concert Hall at TCU and Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth.

The preliminary screening auditions that lead up to the ultimate competition will be held March 6 through 12 inside TCU’s Pepsico Recital Hall. These 25-minute recitals are free and open to the public, providing a rare chance to hear the best pianists in the world perform for a chance to win it all. The screenings will whittle 72 talented contestants down to the Top 30, whose members will be announced on March 30.

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Van Cliburn – Audience Award winner from the 2019 Cliburn Junior, Avery Gagliano
Audience Award winner from the 2019 Cliburn Junior, Avery Gagliano performs.

The world will be listening with anticipation.

The Van Cliburn Completion just revealed the 72 pianists who were chosen from a pool of 388 applicants from 51 countries. It is the largest and most diverse pool in the Cliburn’s 60-year history. Check out the full list of contestants and the performances schedule here.

This is another great (once in four years) opportunity for North Texans to experience a historic piano competition. The Van Cliburn Competition is a true Fort Worth treasure. Mark your calendars for those free screening recitals. The world’s best pianists are descending on Fort Worth.

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