The famous American classical pianist Van Cliburn, who won the first Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow in 1958, during the height of the Cold War, died from bone cancer at the age of 78 on Wednesday.
In the Soviet Union the name "Van Cliburn" was known to almost every person, after the 23-years-old pianist had won the first Moscow Tchaikovsky competition. The musical contest took place six month after the Soviet Union had launched Sputnik, the first satellite to go into orbit, igniting the space race and heating up the Cold War. That is why the inviting of an American musician to the Soviet Union was so important for both sides.
Cliburn won the compeition, which also brought him an international fame. He graced the cover of Time magazine which proclaimed him “The Texan Who Conquered Russia.” Cliburn’s 1958 album of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, recorded with Russian conductor Kirill Kondrashin, became the first classical album to sell more than 1 million copies and reach platinum status. Cliburn received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from US President George W. Bush and the Order of Friendship from Russian President Putin.
Van Cliburn passed away at his home in Texas surrounded by his relatives and closest friends.
Author: Julia Alieva