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And dig the hair! Van Cliburn returns to Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow for first time.

(Rubenstein, Ford, and Cliburn, 1976. Credit: Van Cliburn Foundation.)

This just in from the Van Cliburn Foundation:

Fort Worth, Texas, June 21, 2011—Van Cliburn, cherished American pianist and winner of the first-ever International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in 1958, departed Fort Worth for Moscow yesterday to serve as honorary chairman for the piano section of the XIV Tchaikovsky, taking place June 14–July 2, 2011 in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory.

“It is always a pleasure to return to my beloved Russia,” said Mr. Cliburn, who has toured and visited the country frequently since falling in love with its people as a 23-year-old prodigy. “But this trip is special in that it is the 53rd anniversary of the Tchaikovsky Competition and is the first time I have returned to the competition since 1958. It is so inspiring to hear the young talents from many countries and to be with friends of long standing as we celebrate the love and majesty of great classical music.”
In addition to the attending the competition performances as honorary chairman, Mr. Cliburn will be a distinguished speaker at the Final Awards Ceremony, to be held Thursday, June 30 at 20:00 Moscow time and broadcast live online—along with the entirety of the competition. Additionally, John Beyrle, U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, will host a special dinner in Mr. Cliburn’s honor at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Sunday, June 26.

Here are a couple videos that capture some of the excitement, hope, and -- probably -- relief of the original event, narrated by Dan Rather.