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Cliburn, Van (1934-2013)  
 
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Cliburn died on February 27, 2013 at his home in Fort Worth, Texas of complications from bone cancer. He was survived by his partner, Thomas E. Smith.

The informative obituary by Thomassini in the New York Times details the triumphs and difficulties of Cliburn's career. It describes him as "a naturally gifted pianist whose enormous hands had an uncommonly wide span. He developed a commanding technique, cultivated an exceptionally warm tone and manifested deep musical sensitivity. At its best his playing had a surging Romantic fervor, but one leavened by an unsentimental restraint that seemed peculiarly American."

Thomassini contends that although the Tchaikovsky competition enabled Cliburn's breakthrough as an artist, "it also turned out to be his undoing" because "his growth was stalled by his early success." Thomassini repeatedly alleges that Cliburn failed to fulfill his potential. In contrast, the comments from readers that the obituary elicited tell a story of a man whose talent deeply touched many.

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Cliburn is remembered as a beloved artist who was kind and generous to others. He also leaves an impressive discography, including especially live recordings of his concert performances of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff from the late 1950s and early 1960s, as well as studio recordings of Beethoven, Chopin, and Brahms, among many other composers. His legacy also includes the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which is held quadrennially in Fort Worth.

Linda Rapp

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    Bibliography
   

Douglas, Jack, and Wayne Lee Gay. "Man Sues Van Cliburn for Millions." Fort Worth Star Telegram (April 30, 1996): 9.

Horowitz, Joseph. "As Ever, Cliburn Does It His Way." New York Times (April 28, 1991): sec. 2, p. 1.

Page, Tim. "For Van Cliburn, An Early Crescendo." Washington Post (December 2, 2001): G8.

Recio, Maria. "Cliburn Saluted at Gala." Fort Worth Star Telegram (December 3, 2001): 1.

Reich, Howard. Van Cliburn. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993.

Steinberg, Michael. "Cliburn, Van." The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Stanley Sadie, ed. New York: Grove's Dictionaries, 2001. 16:55.

Teachout, Terry. "Two fallen stars." Commentary 106.1 (July 1998): 55-59.

Thomassini, Anthony. "Van Cliburn, Cold War Musical Envoy, Dies at 78." New York Times (February 27, 2013): http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/arts/music/van-cliburn-pianist-dies-at-78.html?pagewanted=1&_r=3&hp&

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Cliburn, Van  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated March 30, 2013  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/cliburn_v.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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