Legendary Pianist Van Cliburn Dies At 78

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/173122984/173123415" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript

Van Cliburn, the only solo musician of any genre to receive a ticker-tape parade in New York City and the first classical musician to sell a million albums, died Wednesday. The Texan soared to world fame in 1958 when he won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, at the height of the Cold War.


And let's remember, now, a brilliant pianist who turned music into a bridge between the U.S. and the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. Van Cliburn passed away yesterday, at his home in Texas, at 78.

Back in 1958, the young Cliburn was an unknown when he went to Moscow and wowed the country. In winning the Tchaikovsky International Music Competition, he beat Soviet musicians playing Russian music.


MONTAGNE: In America, Van Cliburn's performance was seen as a small victory in the Cold War, and his career took off. His recording of Tchaikovsky's "Piano Concerto Number One" became the first million-selling classical album in history.


MONTAGNE: Even when Van Cliburn had all but retired, he remained hugely popular in Moscow. When he returned as an honorary judge for the Tchaikovsky Competition in 2011, Van Cliburn was mobbed in the streets by fans who had not forgotten what he had done more than 50 years ago.

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.