"The account is played from the heart, with a spellbinding virtuosity that seems almost effortless — a reminder that the concerto is genuine music, after all, not some merely flashy showpiece of fast octaves. Cliburn's playing has so much poise, and in the lyrical moments he brings such shape and expressiveness to the phrasing of the music. Also, the beautiful voicing of chords in the opening passage is achieved with such naturalness, and with a complete lack of bombast; it's no mere technical exercise for him, this is music that really means something."
Since then, Cliburn's name has been linked to the Cliburn Competition, one of the premiere piano competitions in the world.
According to All Music Guide's biography, Cliburn was a piano virtuoso from a young age. He was born in Shreveport, La. in 1934 and "gave his first recital at 4, played with the Houston Symphony at 13, and at 14 was heard in Carnegie Hall. Appearances, prizes, and awards followed in a regular spate without amounting to public recognition or a genuine career."
And then at 23, the Tchaikovsky Competition changed his life.
Remember, relations between the U.S. and Russia were intensely sour and Cliburn was competing against Russians, playing music from a Russian master.