The much-honoured American pianist Van Cliburn was born at Shreveport, Louisiana on 12 July 1934 and started lessons at three with his mother. His family moved to Texas, and at the age of twelve, Harvey won a statewide competition and made his debut with the Houston Symphony Orchestra. He continued his studies at Juilliard with the Russian-American pianist Rosina Lhévinne, who trained him in the Russian manner. At the age of twenty he won the Leventritt Award and appeared at Carnegie Hall.
International fame came in 1958, during the Cold War, when Van Cliburn won first prize at the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and returned home a national hero. The Time magazine cover story described him as 'Horowitz, Liberace and Presley all rolled into one'. He soon had an exclusive recording contract with RCA Victor, and his recording of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto became the world's best-selling classical album for over ten years. The now famous Van Cliburn International Piano Competition began in Fort Worth in 1962.
Harvey Lavan 'Van' Cliburn died in Fort Worth (where a street had previously been named after him) of bone cancer on 27 February 2013, aged seventy-eight.
CD Spotlight. Imaginative and Original - Kirill Kondrashin conducts Rachmaninov, heard by Geoff Pearce. 'The final few minutes are electrifying.'
On watch at the Van Cliburn Competition - with John Bell Young (continued from Thursday)
On watch at the Van Cliburn Competition - with John Bell Young