William Kapell, Van Cliburn, Glenn Gould, Leon Fleisher, Gary Graffman, Jacob Lateiner, Eugene Istomin. These were among post-World-War-II American piano ambassadors. In the 1930s and ’40s, so many artists, scientists, and intellectuals came to America. Then, in the ’50s, these American-trained, fresh faces went into the world to reread the Classical music canon, part of the accidental urban-renewal of European culture.
What happened next? To most of these musicians, harsh accidents and disabilities. The change in geopolitical climate, and the perception of the United States in particular. And the rise of the brave art future of Europe itself.
The usefulness of this Marshall Plan of piano playing was short-lived. So much so that by the end of the 20th Century, a leading German manager could ask me, “Can an American really play Beethoven?”