Van Cliburn, a American classical pianist best known for winning the 1958 Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow at the height of the Cold War, has died. He was 78.
His publicist confirms to the New York Times that Cliburn was being treated for bone cancer prior to his death. He passed away in his Taxas home.
“Van Cliburn was an international legend for over five decades, a great humanitarian and a brilliant musician whose light will continue to shine through his extraordinary legacy,” his publicist and longtime friend Mary Lou Falcone says in a statement. “He will be missed by all who knew and admired him, and by countless people he never met.”
Cliburn was met with national fame after winning the Tchaikovsky competition at age 23. Time magazine called him “The Texan Who Conquered Russia,” and he was greeted upon his return to the United States with a ticker tape parade in New York City — the first to be held for a classic musician. He later went on to record a version of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 that became the first classical album to go platinum.
His legacy in classical music will live on through the Van Cliburn International Music Competition, which Cliburn created in 1962 and is held every four years. Cliburn made his last public appearance at the competition in September 2012, telling those attending its 50th anniversary, “Never forget: I love you all from the bottom of my heart, forever.”