(FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM) — Van Cliburn’s talent alone might have earned him a place among the 20th-century giants of his instrument, alongside classical pianists like Arthur Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz. But after a magical Moscow spring in 1958, Mr. Cliburn’s fame eclipsed even those musical contemporaries, rivaling that of another young superstar of his time, Elvis Presley.
Mr. Cliburn was “The Texan Who Conquered Russia,” according to aTime magazine cover. At the height of the Cold War, the lanky 23-year-old from East Texas traveled to Moscow and won the first Tchaikovsky International Competition, an event created to showcase Soviet cultural superiority. Mr. Cliburn’s unlikely triumph was thus said to bring a thaw in tensions between the rival superpowers and created a mythic parable about the power of art to unite mankind.
The man at the heart of that parable died Wednesday morning at his mansion near Fort Worth. It had been announced Aug. 27 that Mr. Cliburn, who turned 78 in July, was suffering from advanced bone cancer.