Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Van Cliburn dies at age 78.
Harvey Lavan "Van" Cliburn, Jr., was an American pianist who achieved worldwide recognition in 1958 at the age of twenty-three, when he won the first quadrennial International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow, at the height of the Cold War. I was only 10 years old at the time, but I remember clearly the news that this huge event elicited.
Back then, all the truly outstanding pianists in the world were Russian. Then, in 1958, this long, tall Texas arrived and blew the competition out of the water. If he had NOT won the competition, the world would have been crying "foul".
Fast forward to 2003 and the dedication of our new concert hall at the university. Our Steinway D was in place and it needed only a spectacular pair of hands to introduce it to the surrounding community in a first public performance. What a happy night it was. I was so happy, I couldn't stop smiling. I was sure my face was going to break with the joy of it. For several years afterwards, through 2010, I would look at that piano with fond memories and look at the spot where he signed it on the inside.
Now this stellar talent is a part of history in the last way possible. Once he made history. Now he is history. Rest in Peace, Van. We will always remember you with love in our hearts.