Famed Pianist Van Cliburn Dies At 78 In Fort Worth

Van Cliburn (left) with President Barack Obama (Photo by Ruth David/ courtesy of the National Endowment for the Arts)

FORT WORTH (February 27, 2013)--Renowned American classical pianist Van Cliburn died Wednesday morning at the age of 78 after a battle with bone cancer, publicist and longtime friend Mary Lou Falcone told The Associated Press.

Falcone announced in late August 2012 that Cliburn had been diagnosed with advanced cancer and was being cared for at his home in Fort Worth.

Cliburn's triumph at a Moscow competition in 1958 helped thaw the Cold War and launched a spectacular international career.

Cliburn skyrocketed to fame after winning the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at age 23.

He returned to a New York ticker tape parade, a first for a classical musician.

He performed for every president since Harry Truman, and for years devoted his time to the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement Wednesday in which he said he and his wife Anita “were blessed to call Van Cliburn a close friend.”

“He was an incredibly thoughtful person and his love of life was contagious to anyone in his company,” Perry said.

“His larger-than-life talent helped transcend discourse and reminded us that we are, at the core of our being, all human beings who love works of beauty," he said.