Harvey Lavan “Van” Cliburn, Jr.,
who became a celebrated pianist at the age of 23, died Wednesday at
his home in Fort Worth, Texas. He was 78.
According to Cliburn's publicist, the
cause of death was advanced bone cancer.
Cliburn started playing the piano at
the age of 3.
He became a superstar at the age of 23
when he won the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in
Moscow. The soviet judges reportedly went to the Soviet premiere for
his endorsement in awarding Cliburn the prize. He was treated to a
ticker-tape parade upon his return.
Cliburn was the first classical
recording artist to record an album. His recording of Tchaikovsky's
Piano Concerto No. 1 sold more than 1 million copies. He also toured
extensively and performed for President Ronald Reagan and Soviet
President Mikhail Gorbachev at the White House in 1987.
In 1998, Cliburn's former partner of 17
years, Thomas Zaremba, filed a lawsuit claiming he was entitled to a
portion of Cliburn's earnings. He suit was thrown out because the
pair had not made an agreement in writing.