The Cliburn: 50 Years of Gold

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Van Cliburn and Haochen Zhang
Van Cliburn and Haochen Zhang, co-winner of the Gold Medal at the Thirteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2009

Go behind the scenes at one of the most important - and intense - piano competitions in the music world.


Watch The Cliburn: 50 Years of Gold, Friday, Sept. 28, at 9pm on WGBH 2


Every four years, a group of the finest young pianists takes the stage at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. In the midst of the drama, the beauty, the nerves and the excitement, they know one thing is true — what happens there can change their lives. They strive to feel the joy of victory and achieve their utmost goal: to become a performer on the world stage.

A young Van Cliburn performing
Seen through the eyes and memories of 15 gold medalists, The Cliburn: 50 Years of Gold follows the half-century-long history of one of the world's most prestigious music competitions, set against the backdrop of beautiful music. Walking onto the stage at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is a critical moment in the life of a young pianist. Gut-wrenching drama, strung-out nerves and the joy of victory are elements that make up this extraordinary film retrospective.

Producer and Director Peter Rosen tracked down the Cliburn Gold Medalists wherever they were performing around the world to weave their stories into the legend of Van Cliburn, the competition's namesake, who recalls his victory in 1958 in Moscow at the Tchaikovsky Competition at the height of the Cold War: “I had only a few months to prepare for the Tchaikovsky competition. But, in a way, my whole life had been leading up to it.”



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