Celebrated pianist Van Cliburn has just died at the age of 78 on Wednesday February 27, 2013 at his home in Fort Worth, Texas.
Van Cliburn, who was born Harvey Lavan “Van” Cliburn Jr in Shreveport, Louisiana, has died from bone cancer complications.
The talented classical pianist wowed classical music virtuosos in Moscow at the tender age of 23 at the inaugural International Tchaoikovsky Competition in 1958 and took the top prize – even though the competition was clearly to prove Soviet cultural superiority!
That piano performance and win won him a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan fit for a hero, which he had clearly become – a Cold War hero that is!
Since then, Van Cliburn won himself many honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003 (presented to him by President George W. Bush in 2003), the Russian Order of Friendship in 2004, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Among his many honors, Van Cliburn received his Kennedy Center Honors in December of 2001 along with honorees, Julie Andrews, Jack Nicholson, Luciano Pavarotti and Quincy Jones.
Most recently, U.S. President Barack Obama presented Van Cliburn with the 2010 National Medal of Arts on March 2, 2011 in Washington, DC.
Aside from picking up his Russian Order of Friendship award in 2004, Van Cliburn certainly returned to Russia in recent times after the fall of the so-called “Iron Curtain” where he attended the Montblanc White Nights Festival Mariinsky Ball at Catherine Palace on June 27, 2009 in St. Petersburg.
Clad in a sharp tuxedo and bowtie, Van Cliburn mixed it up with socialites in exotic costumes, lounging on cushions on the floor Eastern style amid hookahs! Enjoy the slideshow…