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Release: Sept. 1, 2000

Piano Legend Van Cliburn plays with UI Symphony at Hancher

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Legendary American pianist Van Cliburn, who became a national hero when he won the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow at the height of the Cold War, will be the soloist in an all-Tchaikovsky concert with the University Symphony Orchestra at
8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 20 in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus.

William LaRue Jones, the musical director of the University Symphony, will conduct the Symphony No. 4 and the Piano Concerto No. 1, the piece with which Cliburn triumphed in 1958.

Cliburn was among the first artists to perform in Hancher during its inaugural season,
1972-73. All these seasons later, Cliburn’s Sept. 20 concert will break new ground in Hancher: He will become the first Hancher-presented artist to be featured as a soloist with the University Symphony.

Cliburn was a shy 23-year-old, little known outside classical music circles, when he won the hearts of his Russian audience at the first Tchaikovsky Competition. The news of his victory was so sensational that it made the front pages of newspapers around the world, and he returned to be welcomed by a ticker-tape parade in New York City, the only such honor ever given to a classical musician. His recording of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 became the first classical recording to go platinum, and now has sold more than three million copies.

The tremendous excitement stirred by Cliburn’s achievement in Moscow catapulted him to the forefront of the musical world and into a highly visible public life. Worldwide concert tours and rigorous recording schedules were greeted by sell-out crowds and top-of-the-charts record sales. Over the next two decades, he performed with virtually every major orchestra and conductor and in all the important international concert halls.

Equally in demand for formal ceremonial occasions, Cliburn performed for every United States president since Harry S. Truman, as well as for royalty and heads of state from numerous countries in Europe, Asia and South America.

At the height of his career, Cliburn still found time to give his name, talents and energies to establishing the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, first held in 1962, a living legacy to his commitment to the development of young artists.

Cliburn retreated from the concert stage for many years, and since his return he rarely schedules more than a dozen concerts in a season. The responses of critics and audiences confirm that his mystique has not been diminished by his absence.

The Dallas Morning News critic wrote of Cliburn’s 1989 return to Moscow that ended his sabbatical, "Not only did he give substance to the legend, he also enlarged on it," and described his playing as "streaked with the sort of freedom of phrase, freshness and vivid imagination that comes from a major musician at the zenith of his powers."

A UI music alumnus, Jones joined the faculty of the School of Music in 1997 as director of the University Symphony and director of orchestral studies. He replaced James Dixon, the director of the orchestra for more than 40 years, who retired at the end of the 1996-97 academic year. Prior to joining the UI faculty, Jones was the founding music director/administrator of the internationally recognized Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.

Jones is a highly honored musician, having received the Twin Cities Mayors' Public Art Award, the American String Teachers Association Exceptional Leadership and Merit Award and the David W. Preuss Leadership Award. He has also been selected Musician of the Year by Sigma Alpha Iota, a music honorary society.

Jones is conductor of the Bloomington (Minn.) Symphony and has appeared as a guest conductor with the Minnesota Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Sinfonie Orchester AML-Luzern (Switzerland) and other orchestras around the world. He has conducted all-state and festival orchestras in 46 states and five Canadian provinces. He has been conductor-in-residence at the North Carolina School of the Arts and the University of Miami (Fla.).

Jones holds a Master of Fine Arts in music from the UI and a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Remaining tickets are $37.50 and $35. Senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, and all remaining UI student tickets are $10. Tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

West Music Company is the corporate sponsor of this event, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Learn more about Van Cliburn on the World Wide Web at <>. For UI arts information, visit this new address -- -- on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>.