Pianist Van Cliburn famously had a love of all things Russian, so it was only fitting that his namesake foundation choose "A Russian Romance" as the theme of a gala that paid special tribute to him. The 2018 Classically Cliburn Gala honored the 60th anniversary of his historic win at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958.
More than 450 guests, donning formal ballgowns and tuxedos, packed Ridglea Country Club on April 6 for what was undoubtedly the hottest Fort Worth gala ticket of the year. The event, chaired by Kaydee and Bill Bailey and Kim and Glenn Darden, also honored immediate past Cliburn chairman Carla Kemp Thompson and her husband, Kelly, for many years of dedication.
The night began with an elegant reception, where attendees — including Thomas Smith, Mercedes Bass, John and Cami Goff, Sasha and Ed Bass, Gail Rawl, Gary Cole, Marcia French, Ann Hudson, and Anne and Robert Bass — enjoyed a caviar and vodka bar while the Dallas String Quartet serenaded.
Then guests sat down to tables decorated ornately, with arrangements of brightly colored roses and twinkling candles, for a formal seated dinner. The menu featured dishes that cleverly referenced Russian music and culture: Salade Romanov, Boeuf Tchaikovsky aux champignons, Pommes de terre Prokofiev, and for dessert, Gâteau framboise Fabergé.
After dinner, Cliburn chairman Jeff King took the stage to thank the Thompsons for their service. He also gave a touching tribute to the late Van Cliburn, whose Tchaikovsky win helped bring together Americans and Russians at the height of the Cold War.
President and CEO Jacques Marquis told attendees that gala proceeds would support all Cliburn initiatives — this year, specifically, for the career management of the 2017 competition winners and for the Cliburn in the Classroom education program.
Those who wished to extend the night visited a Sigarnyy Klub with hand-rolled cigars and posed for photos in front of a giant Faberge egg backdrop that incorporated the Cliburn's distinctive "VC" piano-insignia. The Chris Norton Band kept the dance floor lively, especially for members of the Cliburn 180s — the organization's young professionals group — until 12:30 am.
The Fort Worth-based Cliburn advances classical piano music throughout the world through its international competitions, education programs, and concert series. Established in in 1962, the quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition (which takes place next in 2021) remains the most prestigious competition in the world for young pianists aspiring to a professional concert career.