FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Renowned classical pianist Van Cliburn has been diagnosed with advanced bone cancer and is resting comfortably at his Texas home, his publicist said Monday.
The 78-year-old Cliburn is under excellent care and his spirits are high, said longtime friend and publicist Mary Lou Falcone.
Cliburn skyrocketed to fame in 1958 when he won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at age 23. He triumphantly returned to a New York ticker tape parade, the only one ever for a classical musician, and a Time magazine cover proclaimed him "The Texan Who Conquered Russia."
In the years that followed, Cliburn's popularity soared, and the young man from the small east Texas town of Kilgore sold out concerts, broke record sales, caused riots when spotted in public and even prompted an Elvis Presley fan club to change its name to his.
But he tired of years of performing mainly the same pieces that made him famous — such as Tchaikovsky's "Piano Concerto No. 1," which had sealed his Moscow win — and took a sabbatical in 1978, feeling emotionally drained from nonstop touring. Cliburn later moved from New York to Fort Worth, where he currently lives and where he remained active in the arts and social scenes. He began playing publicly again in the late 1980s.
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