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Distinguished American pianist Van Cliburn dies at 78

Van Cliburn, the American pianist who won the first Tchaikovsky Competition during the height of the Cold War, dies at 78 in Fort Worth.
BY RICK ROGERS rrogers@opubco.com Modified: February 27, 2013 at 6:31 pm •  Published: February 28, 2013
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Cliburn returned to Oklahoma two years later to perform with the University of Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra. Allan Ross conducted the orchestra in a performance of Rachmaninoff's “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor.”

“Van Cliburn and his exceptional talent will be greatly missed,” said OU President David Boren, a longtime friend of the pianist. “We will always remember him at the University of Oklahoma, where he presented one of his last public concerts playing with our symphony orchestra. He was especially generous in sharing extra time with our piano students.”

In 1962, the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition was established to honor Cliburn's efforts to promote the development of young artists. The quadrennial competition has helped launch the careers of many major artists, including Radu Lupu, Cristina Ortiz, Andre-Michel Schub, Jose Feghali and Jon Nakamatsu. The 14th competition will be held in Fort Worth in June.

Cliburn received more than 20 honorary doctorates, established scholarships at many music schools and conservatories and performed for every U.S. president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

He was honored with a Kennedy Center Honor in 2001 and a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 2004. George W. Bush presented Cliburn the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003, and Obama awarded Cliburn the National Medal of Arts in 2011.

Services are pending.

Contributing: The Associated Press