Living On

This past February, America lost one of its finest heroes. Van Cliburn at the age of age 78 passed away from bone cancer at his home in Fort Worth, Texas. He leaves behind a legacy of generosity, dedication, and wonderful music.

Van Cliburn gained worldwide fame in 1958 at the first International Tchaikovsky Competition. The competition was held in the former Soviet Union during the politically tense Cold War. Cliburn placed first place with his phenomenal performance of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3. The judges were hesitant to award an American the prize, since it was during the Cold War, but he was ultimately named champion. In American newspapers, Cliburn as lauded was "The Texan Who Conquered Russia." Soon after that event he recorded the Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1, with Kirill Kondrashin. More history was made when that classical record sold more than a million copies.

Cliburn’s victory inspired musicians all over the country and brought about new confidence in the strength and capability of American music-making. After his amazing achievement, Cliburn toured widely all over the world as international audiences at renowned concert halls received him with greatest anticipation and excitement. A group of friends and admirers in Fort Worth, his home town, decided to form and start the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition as a way to commemorate and memorialize Cliburn's legacy as well as promote music all over the world. The competition is now one of the most well known and is commonly considered the most prestigious and important piano competitions of all. The Fourteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is dedicated to Cliburn's memory.

Cliburn will continue to be an iconic figure in American music history. He was always committed to spreading the universality and beauty of classical music around the world. Although we are all mourning the loss of this inspiring musician and human being, he leaves behind much inspiration for perpetuating and sharing the joys and love of music.

by Olivia Lin