Pianist and international celebrity Van Cliburn dies at 78

Posted on: February 28, 2013

In Thursday’s (2/28) Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Texas), Tim Madigan writes, “Van Cliburn’s talent alone might have earned him a place among the 20th-century giants of his instrument, alongside classical pianists like Arthur Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz. But after a magical Moscow spring in 1958, Mr. Cliburn’s fame eclipsed even those musical contemporaries, rivaling that of another young superstar of his time, Elvis Presley. Mr. Cliburn was ‘The Texan Who Conquered Russia,’ according to a Time magazine cover. At the height of the Cold War, the lanky 23-year-old from East Texas traveled to Moscow and won the first Tchaikovsky International Competition, an event created to showcase Soviet cultural superiority. Mr. Cliburn’s unlikely triumph was thus said to bring a thaw in tensions between the rival superpowers and created a mythic parable about the power of art to unite mankind. The man at the heart of that parable died Wednesday morning at his mansion near Fort Worth. It had been announced Aug. 27 that Mr. Cliburn, who turned 78 in July, was suffering from advanced bone cancer. … A friend to American presidents, foreign leaders and Hollywood celebrities, Mr. Cliburn also became a fixture in the life of Fort Worth. … He was often seen at local cultural events or handing out medals to winners of the prestigious Fort Worth piano competition that bears his name. … Through much of the 1960s and 1970s, he was among the most sought-after soloists and recording artists of his generation.” The Fourteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, to take place May 24-June 9, 2013, at Fort Worth’s Bass Performance Hall, will be dedicated to his memory.

Photo courtesy of the Van Cliburn Foundation Archives

Posted February 28, 2013