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Classical pianist Van Cliburn passes away

Classical pianist Van Cliburn passes away

THE American classical pianist Van Cliburn has passed away at the age of 78.

Born Harvey Lavan Cilburn in Louisiana in 1934, Mr. Cilburn inherited his love of the piano from his mother. She was an accomplished player who had studied under Franz Liszt.

Mr Cilburn was 3 when his mother found him sitting at the piano attempting to copy what one of her students had been playing. It was to mark the beginning of his piano lessons.

Twenty years later, Van Cliburn became world famous when he won the first Tchaikovsky Prize in Moscow in 1958. The impact of his achievement, which came at the height of the Cold War, can be measured by the fact that the young Cliburn was rewarded with a ticker-tape parade in New York — the first classical musician to be granted the honour.

Over the years, he played across the world as well as producing critically acclaimed recordings. He was the first musician to sell one million copies of a recording of his work (Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1).

During his career he had played for many Kings, Queens and Presidents, including every resident of the White House since Harry Truman.

In 1962, he established the Van Cliburn International Music Competition which sees the world’s top young pianists coming together every four years to compete for the prestigious gold medal.

He received America’s highest civilian honour, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2003 from President George W. Bush. In 2010 President Obama awarded him the National Medal of Arts.

His recognition was not confined to his home country. In 2004, Russian President Vladimir Putin presented Van Cliburn with the Order of Friendship of the Russian Federation.

Mr. Cliburn passed away at his home in Fort Worth, Texas. He had been suffering from bone cancer.

To view footage of Van Cliburn playing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, click here.

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