"Pianist Van Cliburn, the tall, gangly Texan whose 1958 victory at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow brought Cold War politics into the world of classical music and launched his own starry, though brief, career on the concert stage, died Wednesday morning at his home in Fort Worth. He was 78.
The cause of death was bone cancer, according to his longtime publicist, Mary Lou Falcone.
Mr. Cliburn's Moscow success, which came a mere six months after the anxiety-inducing launch of the Sputnik satellite, was seen as a cultural triumph for the West in a sphere that had been dominated by the Soviets. Mr. Cliburn's final performances in the competition were of concertos by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.
The 23-year-old pianist came home to a ticker-tape parade in New York City and adulatory press coverage, including an appearance on the cover of Time magazine hailing him as "The Texan Who Conquered Russia."