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Popular pianist Van Cliburn passes away - See Pictures of the legend

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Los Angeles: Classical pianist Van Cliburn, who rose to fame at a 1958 Moscow competition, died Wednesday after a battle with bone cancer. He was 78.

Van Cliburn died at his home in Fort Worth, Texas, surrounded by loved ones, his publicist and close friend Mary Lou Falcone. Musician Cliburn attained fame at the age of 23 by winning the first edition of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, held in 1958, just six months after the Soviet Union shocked Washington by launching the first artificial satellite, Sputnik.

Van Cliburn later performed in numerous concerts all over the country and was even featured on the cover of Time magazine, which proclaimed him "The Texan Who Conquered Russia". Cliburn performed for every US president from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama.

Click on the slider below to view some amazing and rare pictures of Van Cliburn and know more about the legend.

Van Cliburn

Van Cliburn's mother, an accomplished pianist who had studied under a student of Franz Liszt, discovered him playing at age three, mimicking one of her students, and began his lessons.

Van Cliburn

Cliburn developed a rich, round tone and a singing voice-like phrasing, having been taught early on to sing each piece.

Van Cliburn

Van Cliburn toured domestically and overseas. He played for royalty and heads of state, and every president from Eisenhower to Obama. He was the first classical recording artist to have an album, his recording of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, sell more than 1 million copies.

Van Cliburn

Van Cliburn was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and began taking piano lessons at the age of three from his mother, the former Rildia Bee O'Bryan, who, in turn, had been instructed by Arthur Friedheim, a pupil of Franz Liszt.

Van Cliburn

At six years old, Cliburn's oilman father returned the family to Kilgore, Texas, and at twelve he won a statewide piano competition which enabled him to debut with the Houston Symphony Orchestra.

Van Cliburn

Cliburn entered the Juilliard School at the age of seventeen, and studied under Rosina Lhévinne, who trained him in the tradition of the great Russian romantics. At twenty, Cliburn won the Leventritt Award, and made his Carnegie Hall debut.

Van Cliburn

Upon returning to the United States, Cliburn appeared in a Carnegie Hall concert with the Symphony of the Air, conducted by Kirill Kondrashin, who had led the Moscow Philharmonic in the prize-winning performances in Moscow.

Van Cliburn

The performance of the Rachmaninoff 3rd Piano Concerto at this concert was subsequently released by RCA Victor on both LP and CD. Cliburn was also invited by Steve Allen to play a solo during Allen's prime time NBC television program on April 14, 1958.

Van Cliburn

Cliburn performed and recorded through the 1970s, but in 1978, after the deaths of his father and manager, began a hiatus from public life. In 1987, he was invited to perform at the White House for President Ronald Reagan and Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev.

Van Cliburn

Also in 1994, Cliburn made a guest appearance in the cartoon Iron Man, playing himself in the episode "Silence My Companion, Death My Destination". In his late seventies he gave a limited number of performances to critical and popular acclaim.

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