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Van Cliburn: A Timeless Classical Celebrity

By Phoebe Ryles
Epoch Times Staff
Created: February 28, 2013 Last Updated: March 29, 2013
Related articles: Arts & Entertainment » Music
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President Barack Obama (R) congratulates musician Van Cliburn (L) after presenting him with the 2010 National Medal of Arts at White House in 2011. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama (R) congratulates musician Van Cliburn (L) after presenting him with the 2010 National Medal of Arts at White House in 2011. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Van Cliburn, the renowned pianist, was best known for his interpretations of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, but Cliburn enthusiasts know that the pianist skill covered a wide range of musical selections and styles. Cliburn died Feb. 27 at his home in Texas at age 78.

Born July 12, 1934 in Shreveport, Louisiana, Cliburn received his formal musical education at The Juilliard School in New York City.  He was pushed into the limelight at age 23 when he won the Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow in 1958.  His victory was “viewed as an American triumph over the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War,” according to the New York Times.

As a skilled classical artist, Cliburn enjoyed a level of celebrity in his heyday that may be hard for many to imagine today.  Photos of his 1958 performance show an adoring audience of young women pressed up against the stage. Upon his return to New York, he was greeted by a ticker-tape parade. He was the first musician to be so honored, according to the NY Times.

Cliburn’s light touch and what NPR’s Ted Libby called “spellbinding virtuosity” make his music a joy to listen to for the amature and professional ear alike. A live stream of his music is available at Cliburn Radio on the Cliburn Foundation webpage.

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