Remembering Master Pianist, Maestro Van Cliburn

BY News Desk  February 27, 2013 at 3:26 PM EST


This video first aired on PBS NewsHour April 11, 2008. Read the full transcript.

Van Cliburn, the classical pianist who was vaulted on the world stage when, at the age of 23, he won the first International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow, died at home Wednesday at the age of 78 after a battle with bone cancer.

Just six months after the Soviets launched Sputnik, amid a mounting arms race and heightened Cold War tensions, Cliburn’s performance in Moscow galvanized the former USSR and received worldwide attention. Cliburn would become the only classical musician honored by a ticker-tape parade down Broadway Avenue and his album of Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto became the first classical recording to sell a million copies.

He made his last public appearance in September 2012, marking the 50th anniversary of a prestigious piano prize in his name. Cliburn said to the crowd in Fort Worth, Tex., “Never forget: I love you all from the bottom of my heart, forever.”

Jeffrey Brown visited Cliburn at his home outside Fort Worth in 2008 for a profile on PBS NewsHour.

“Rachmaninoff said once, “Great music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for great music,” Cliburn said.

“And you still have the same curiosity and excitement?,” Brown asked.

“Yes, and the same joy in hearing these compositions. But it’s always there. It will be there after you and I and everyone we know today are dead; that music will still be alive,” Cliburn said.