Van Cliburn was reported dead on Feb. 27, according to many sources including Reuters who quoted his publicist, Mary Lou Falcone. She called this great American piano virtuoso "the symbol of peace for the Cold War."
By way of background, this Texas-born genius began playing piano by the time he was only 3. He joined the Houston Symphony before he was a teen and he went to Julliard to study not long after that.
Then, Van Cliburn surprised the world when he took the top prize at the Moscow's first International Tchaikovsky Competition.
The year was 1958 and the finale for this competition, which was his performance of the Rachmaninov Third Concert, led to an astounding eight-minute standing ovation.
Still, Russian judges needed to get permission from Nikita Khrushchev to offer the winning award to Van Cliburn, who was just 23 at the time. He did, and as both Khrushchev then President Eisenhower embraced this young talent, he became the sole classical musician to ever have a New York City ticker-tape parade presented in his honor.
Time magazine dubbed Van Cliburn as "The Texan Who Conquered Russia."
But this glorious story had other repercussions since the Van Cliburn win put the Cold War on hold for a while, making this pianist an icon for that cause. He also gained immediate fame as well bringing classical music to the masses in the 1950s.
The rest is history as this extraordinary talent did so much for the arts and for the art of playing the piano. In fact, the the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition brought the spotlight to Radu Lupu, Cristina Ortiz, Youri Egorov and Olga Kern, among many other amazing keyboard players.
Van Cliburn died at age 78 from cancer at his home with Thomas L. Smith, his sole survivor. RIP, Van Cliburn, RIP.