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Harvey Lavan “Van” Cliburn Jr. passed away Wednesday, February 27, at his home in Fort Worth, Texas, after a battle with cancer. He was 78. Our condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Van Cliburn at Schmitt Music

Van Cliburn posed with a Steinway concert grand piano on Sunday morning, March 28, 1977, in front of “the music wall” mural on Schmitt Music’s downtown Minneapolis building. He was in town for an engagement with the Minnesota Orchestra, and the photo attracted the attention of national newspapers. An englarged version of the photo is prominently displayed at the new Schmitt Music Edina store.

At the height of the Cold War, at 23 years-old, Van Cliburn traveled to Moscow and won the first International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition. Winning that event helped him achieve worldwide recognition. Upon his return from Russia, Van Cliburn was honored with a ticker-tape parade in New York City (the only classical musician to receive such an honor), and TIME Magazine proclaimed him “The Texan Who Conquered Russia.”

Van Cliburn was a Steinway Artist, and he was the first classical recording artist to have an album. His recording of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 sold more than 1 million copies.

Watch an amazing video of Van Cliburn playing Rachmaninov’s 3rd Concerto in Moscow, 1958. This is one of the performances that helped him win the Tchaikovsky Competition!


Click here to read an NPR article “Remembering Van Cliburn.”

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