News / Arts & Entertainment

Classical Pianist Van Cliburn Dies

Van Cliburn performing during at a concert dedicated to the memory of the victims of the recent Beslan school massacre in Moscow, Sept 21, 2004.
Van Cliburn performing during at a concert dedicated to the memory of the victims of the recent Beslan school massacre in Moscow, Sept 21, 2004.
Mary Morningstar, Doug LevineKatherine Cole
Classical pianist Van Cliburn died February 27 at age 78 (born July 12, 1934).  The legendary performer was only 23 years old when he captured the world's attention by winning the Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow. In addition to performing decades of concerts and recording numerous albums, he fostered the careers of young artists by creating several scholarship programs and establishing the annual Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas.  

In 1958, Van Cliburn became an instant celebrity when he won the Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow. It caused a sensation for an American to win a Russian competition during the tense standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union known as the Cold War. Van Cliburn’s triumph in the competition was celebrated not only by Americans, but by Russians. New York Times Moscow correspondent Max Frankel covered the competition and later wrote that “The Soviet public celebrated Cliburn not only for his artistry but for his nationality; affection for him was a safe expression of affection for America.”

Classical Pianist Van Cliburn Dies
Classical Pianist Van Cliburn Diesi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

Van Cliburn won the competition on the strength of his performance of the Tchaikovsky's "Concerto No. 1."  

When he returned to the U.S., RCA Records released Van Cliburn’s debut album containing the prize-winning work.  The LP won a Grammy Award and sold more than one million copies, making Cliburn the first American artist to achieve platinum status with a debut release.  Van Cliburn demonstrated his profound love of the music he performed, but felt its popularity went beyond his technical abilities.  

"If you take a great piece of music into your heart, you take it for its great spiritual value," said Van Cliburn. "And when you look at a wonderful piece of music, even though it may enjoy popularity, if you examine its pages very carefully, you will find the reason.  And it will always be a very good reason why it is popular.

President Barack Obama presents a 2010 National Medal of Arts to pianist Van Cliburn, March 2, 2011, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington.President Barack Obama presents a 2010 National Medal of Arts to pianist Van Cliburn, March 2, 2011, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington.
x
President Barack Obama presents a 2010 National Medal of Arts to pianist Van Cliburn, March 2, 2011, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington.
President Barack Obama presents a 2010 National Medal of Arts to pianist Van Cliburn, March 2, 2011, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington.
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana on July 12, 1934, Van Cliburn began studying piano at age three with his mother, herself a talented pianist.  Cliburn made his orchestral debut at age 12 with the Houston Symphony and five years later earned a scholarship to New York's prestigious Juilliard School.  Following graduation, he spent several years performing with various major symphony orchestras, which led to his participation in Moscow's First International Tchaikovsky Competition.  Cliburn brought to his performance not only great musicianship and tremendous technical skill, but a determination to please his audience.

"You always want to play well," he said. "You're always hoping to play well.  And if you don't play well, YOU are the unhappiest person.  So, you want to please your audience and you hope that you're being true to the music and also true to those who want to hear you."

Van Cliburn dedicated many years of his life to helping aspiring young artists by creating scholarship programs at schools and universities throughout the world.  In 1962, he established the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas.  Over the years, the competition has enhanced the careers of numerous developing musicians.

"It's been so interesting to see the young people come," said Van Cliburn. "They meet each other and have friendships and musical correspondences.  It's really very exciting.  And it's like the same feeling I had when I went to Russia in 1958.  The warmth and camaraderie - it carried through all through the years."

Critics praised Cliburn throughout his long career for his outstanding technical prowess and sense of lyrical romanticism.  The humble virtuoso offered much of the credit for his success to his peers.

"One of the things that has always been an inspiration to me is to go to a concert and be thrilled,"he said. "And to be inspired by another person's successful concert.  We're all so dependent on another person's success."

Van Cliburn found it difficult to balance his personal life with the demands of constant touring.  In the mid-1970s, he abandoned the spotlight. But after 11 years off the stage, Cliburn began performing rare concert appearances, and toured extensively in the 1990s.

He was the recipient of some of the nation’s highest honors, including a Kennedy Center Honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Arts, and a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement.  Cliburn’s last appearance was in September at the 50th anniversary of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.  Van Cliburn died Wednesday morning in Fort Worth, Texas. He was 78.

You May Like

Official: S. Sudan President, Rebel Leader to Meet in Tanzania

Talks part of effort to end conflict in country that has left more than 10,000 people dead, displaced more than 1.5 million others More

Dutch Deny Link to Mystery Submarine Off Sweden

Netherlands denies Russian claim that 'foreign vessel' photographed in waters off Sweden could be Dutch More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Joe Taylor sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his distinction as New York’s “Subway Idol,” and how he beat out thousands for that title. Joe performs several songs from his new CD, “Anything’s Possible.”