Van Cliburn, the legendary American pianist died on the 27th of February 2013.
Van Cliburn, that tall Texan, was the first American ever to win the prestigious Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow 1958, and thus became a national sensation. He was also the first and only American musician to receive a ticker-tape parade in New York City. A ticker-tape parade is an event allowing large amounts of shredded paper, like confetti, to be thrown onto the parade, creating a celebratory effect. They are reserved for very special occasions. This is what Van Cliburn had to say about at the parade: “I appreciate more than you will ever know that you are honoring me, but the thing that thrills me the most is that you are honoring classical music, because I’m only one of many. I’m only a witness and a messenger. Because I believe so much in the beauty, the construction, the architecture invisible, the importance for all generations, for young people to come that it will help their minds, develop their attitudes and give them values. That is why I’m so grateful that you have honored me in that spirit.”
Born on July 12, 1934, in Shreveport, Louisiana, his mother,Rildia Bee Cliburn, was his first piano teacher. The family moved to Kilgore, Texas, when he was around the age of 6. At 12 years old, Van Cliburn made his first appearance with the Houston Symphony Orchestra. After graduating High School in 1951, the young pianist moved to New York City where he studied at the famed Juilliard School with Rosina Lhevinne.
The United States was still dumbfounded from the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite to orbit the earth, on October 4, 1957. But the American winning of a prestigious Soviet classical music competition served as an important morale booster to the USA. It made Van Cliburn a hero, and from then on he enjoyed a level of popularity only bestowed on pop singers and rock stars.
In 1962 he established the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which is to this day the most famous and prestigious International Piano Competition, held every four years.
In 2012, it was revealed that Van Cliburn was battling bone cancer. He died on February 27, 2013, at his home in Fort Worth, Texas.
During his career, Van Cliburn played for every American president since Harry Truman. He received numerous honors over the years, including the Order of Friendship from Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2004. In 2011, Van Cliburn earned the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama.
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