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The Cliburn: 50 Years Of Gold

Airs Friday, September 28, 2012 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Van Cliburn with Haochen Zhang, just after he was named a gold medalist of the Thirteenth Cliburn Competition in 2009.

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.

Ralph Votapek, gold medalist of the First Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1962, with General Chairman of the Competition Grace Ward Lankford.
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Above: Ralph Votapek, gold medalist of the First Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1962, with General Chairman of the Competition Grace Ward Lankford.

Van Cliburn performing in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory during the First Tchaikovsky International Competition in 1958.
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Above: Van Cliburn performing in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory during the First Tchaikovsky International Competition in 1958.

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.

Emmy Award®-winning producer/director Peter Rosen tracked down the Cliburn Gold Medalists wherever they were performing around the world to weave their fascinating 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.”

"The Cliburn: 50 Years Of Gold" was produced by Peter Rosen Productions, Inc. and presented by KERA TV in North Texas. The project is funded by The Burnett Foundation, the BNSF Railway Foundation, the Sid W. Richardson Foundation and The Ryan Foundation.

The Van Cliburn Foundation is on Facebook, and you can follow @TheCliburn on Twitter. Watch performances videos on the Van Cliburn Foundation's YouTube Channel.

Video

Preview: The Cliburn: 50 Years Of Gold

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Watch The Cliburn: 50 Years of Gold - Preview on PBS. See more from 50 Years of Gold.

Above: Every four years, a group of the world’s finest young pianists takes the stage at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. Amid the drama, beauty, nerves and excitement, they know one thing is true — the outcome there can change their lives. Through the eyes and memories of 15 gold medalists, this program follows the 50-year history of one of the world’s most prestigious music competitions. The retrospective includes historic footage and interviews with Van Cliburn.

Video

Van Cliburn addresses audience at 50th Anniversary Gold Medalists Concert

Above: Van Cliburn addresses the audience during the Van Cliburn Foundation's 50th Anniversary Gold Medalists Concert at Bass Performance Hall on September 6, 2012.