The winner of the 1958 Tchaikovsky International Competition has passed away on February 27, 2013. Van Cliburn, the classical pianist was 78-years-old and had enjoyed a successful career during the cold war. The late musician is survived by Thomas L. Smith, whom he was sharing living quarters with.
During his youth, a 23-year-old Cliburn took home the coveted prize at the Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow. At the time, this was considered to be a victory over the Soviets, during a time of high tension. When he returned to the US, he was greeted with great applause and celebration. Around 100,000 people were on the streets cheering for him as well.
Cliburn grew up in Texas and was regarded as a very important musician during his time. Before he hit the big time, he was regarded as an exceptional pianist and had won other awards. He played with five big orchestras during his time and shared an era with other greats such as Gary Graffman, Byron Janis, Leon Fleisher and Eugene Istomin.
Although Cliburn made an impact early on in his career, he found it tough to continue his success. People wanted to hear his prize-winning pieces wherever he went in the early days, but he started feeling the pressure of show business. As a result, the musician slowly retired from the stage during the 1970’s and 1980’s.