Harvey Lavan “Van” Cliburn, Jr., (July 12, 1934 – February 27, 2013) was an American pianist who achieved worldwide recognition in 1958 at the age of 23, when he won the first quadrennial International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow at the height of the Cold War.
His mother, an accomplished pianist who had studied under a student of Franz Liszt, discovered him playing at age three and mimicking one of her students. She began his own lessons. He developed a rich, round tone and a singing voice-like phrasing, having been taught from the start to sing each piece.
Van Cliburn toured domestically and overseas. He played for royalty, heads of state, and every U.S. president from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Barack Obama. His recording of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 was the first album by a classical artist to sell more than 1 million copies.
Cliburn received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2001. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003 by then President George W. Bush, and, in October 2004, the Russian Order of Friendship, the highest civilian awards of the two countries. He was also awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award the same year and played at a surprise 50th birthday party for United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He was a member of the Alpha Chi Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and was awarded the fraternity’s Charles E. Lutton Man of Music Award in 1962. He was presented a 2010 National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.
Van Cliburn cause of death
Van Ciburn died of bone cancer. Van Ciburn was 78 years old at the time of his death. On August 27, 2012, Cliburn’s publicist announced that the pianist had advanced bone cancer.
In 1998, Cliburn was named in a lawsuit by his domestic partner of seventeen years, mortician Thomas Zaremba. In the suit, Zaremba claimed entitlement to a portion of Cliburn’s income and assets and went on to charge that he might have been exposed to HIV, claiming emotional distress. The claims were denied by a trial court, and that decision was then affirmed by an appellate court, which held that palimony suits are not permitted in the state of Texas unless the relationship is based on a written agreement.
Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1 Mvt III – Van Cliburn