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  R.I.P.

Award-Winning Cold War Pianist Van Cliburn Passes Away At 78.

val cliburnAcclaimed pianist Van Cliburn has died after a battle against bone cancer, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. He was 78.

Cliburn, born Harvey Lavan Cliburn, first gained attention in 1958—when, still in his early 20s, he won the first Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow during the height of the Cold War. (He received a standing ovation that lasted eight minutes.) Cliburn appeared on the cover of Time magazine, and was the first classical recording artist to have an album, his recording of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, sell more than 1 million copies.

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Cliburn began taking piano lessons from his mom at the age of 3. At 12, he won a statewide piano competition that allowed him to debut with the Houston Symphony Orchestra. He enrolled in Juilliardand made his Carnegie Hall debut at 20. Through a career that spanned more than a half-century, Cliburn played for every U.S. President from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Barack Obama, and received the Kennedy Center Honors, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Russian Order of Friendship, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Cliburn was gay, but shy about discussing his sexuality—and an observant Baptist who attended church every week. In 1998, he was sued by mortician Thomas Zaremba, his partner of 17 year, for a portion of his assets. Zaremba lost, mainly because Texas does not recognize palimony suits unless they are based on a written agreement.

He is survived by his current partner, Thomas L. Smith.

Rest in peace, piano man.

 

By:           Dan Avery
On:           Feb 28, 2013
Tagged: , , , , , ,

  • 2 Comments
    • Rock Star
      Rock Star

      One of the best. Of course he was no Rachmaninov, but who is? No surprise he was gay as most great artists are.

      Feb 28, 2013 at 10:51 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jwrappaport
      jwrappaport

      A great musical ambassador gone, but not forgotten.

      Feb 28, 2013 at 11:57 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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