Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pianist, Van Cliburn

 Van Cliburn, famous and extremely talented pianist, died Feb.27, 2013 at the age of 78.  Cliburn’s talents were compared to other renowned classical pianist such as Arthur Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz.  Cliburn made his home in Fort Worth, even though he could have chosen, as many artists do, to live in New York.  He was born in Shreveport in 1934, but his family moved to the east Texas town of Kilgore where he was reared.
         Cliburn knew he wanted to be a pianist at the age of 5.  He was playing with nationally acclaimed orchestras such as the Houston Symphony by the time he was 12.  His first piano teacher was his mother.  When Cliburn was 23 years old he went to Russian to compete in the Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow at a time when the cold war was at its height.  Russia intended to use the competition to show the world that it was the superior power in classical piano, however Cliburn’s performance astounded Russia and the world.  Cliburn played Tchaikovsky’s First Piano concerto, then he played Rachmaninoff’s Third.  Applause thundered through the hall.  One man remarked that Cliburn played as if Rachmaninoff had played the piece.  Cliburn was allowed to win the competition only after Khrushchev, himself, approved.  Cliburn’s talent and appreciation of the Russian people helped to bring a tentative harmony between the US and Russia.  The only ticker-tape parade held for a classical artist was thrown when Cliburn arrived in New York heralding his talent and diplomacy. His good looks, quiet manners, and Christian principals allowed this young to act as an unofficial United States ambassador.                                                                           
Cliburn was honored with a having a National Guild of Piano Teachers competition named for him in 1958.  This competition morphed in the world-renown, international piano competition, The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which is this year celebrating its 50th anniversary.  
          To illustrate the extent of Van Cliburn international fame, I have snipped a search done in Lexis Nexis Academic which shows the mere beginnings of the list of articles published around the world about this man.

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