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Van Cliburn through the years

Van Cliburn performs Johannes Brahms'

Van Cliburn performs Johannes Brahms' "Two Rhapsodies in Opus 79," at Symphony Hall in Boston. Van Cliburn's return to Symphony Hall is his first Boston-area recital since 1971. (March 4, 2001) Photo Credit: AP

Van Cliburn, the internationally celebrated pianist whose triumph at a 1958 Moscow competition helped thaw the Cold War and launched a spectacular career that made him the rare classical musician to enjoy rock-star status, died Wednesday after a fight with bone cancer. He was 78.

American classical pianist Van Cliburn, 78, died of
Photo Credit: Getty Images

American classical pianist Van Cliburn, 78, died of bone cancer in Fort Worth, Texas, on Feb. 27, 2013. (May 27, 1963)

Pianist Van Cliburn performs in the final round
Photo Credit: AP

Pianist Van Cliburn performs in the final round of Tchaikovsky International Piano & Violin competition in Moscow. (April 11, 1958)

In this photo provided by the Van Cliburn
Photo Credit: AP / Courtesy of Van Cliburn Foundation

In this photo provided by the Van Cliburn Foundation, Texas pianist Van Cliburn performs to a packed audience in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory in Moscow, during the first International Tchaikovsky Competition, which he won. (April 1958)

Pianist Van Cliburn performs for the American Association
Photo Credit: AP

Pianist Van Cliburn performs for the American Association of School Administrators at the Convention Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. (Feb. 19, 1959)

Pianist Van Cliburn signs an autograph at the
Photo Credit: AP

Pianist Van Cliburn signs an autograph at the Salute to Classical Music luncheon in Los Angeles. In recognition of his professional achievements and role as an ambassador of the arts, the Recording Academy presented Cliburn with the President's Merit Award. (Feb. 24, 2002)

Pianist Van Cliburn after performs with the Boston
Photo Credit: AP

Pianist Van Cliburn after performs with the Boston Symphony Orchestra as the orchestra plays "Happy Birthday," on his 69th birthday at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass. (July 12, 2003)

President George W. Bush talks with pianist Van
Photo Credit: Getty Alex Wong

President George W. Bush talks with pianist Van Cliburn after presenting him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during an East Room event at the White House. Cliburn was honored as a skilled musician and for his contributions to the arts. (July 23, 2003)

Pianist Van Cliburn performs during at a concert
Photo Credit: AP

Pianist Van Cliburn performs during at a concert dedicated to the memory of the victims of the recent Beslan school massacre in Moscow. (Sept. 21, 2004)

President Barack Obama presents a 2010 National Medal
Photo Credit: AP

President Barack Obama presents a 2010 National Medal of Arts to pianist Van Cliburn during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. (March 2, 2011)

Classical pianist Van Cliburn receives the 2010 National
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Classical pianist Van Cliburn receives the 2010 National Medal of Arts during a ceremony at the White House. Cliburn, who won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at age 23 in 1958, was the first classical musician to receive a ticker tape parade in New York after he won the Soviet piano competition. (March 2, 2011)

Pianist Van Cliburn arrives at the Kennedy Center
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Pianist Van Cliburn arrives at the Kennedy Center Honors Gala on Dec. 2, 2001, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Cliburn was one of the five recipients honored. (Dec. 2, 2001)

Van Cliburn and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Van Cliburn and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton after his performance at the state dinner for Prime Minister Obuchi of Japan. (May 3, 1999)

Van Cliburn performs Johannes Brahms'
Photo Credit: AP

Van Cliburn performs Johannes Brahms' "Two Rhapsodies in Opus 79," at Symphony Hall in Boston. Van Cliburn's return to Symphony Hall is his first Boston-area recital since 1971. (March 4, 2001)

Van Cliburn, the internationally celebrated pianist whose triumph
Photo Credit: AP

Van Cliburn, the internationally celebrated pianist whose triumph at a 1958 Moscow competition helped thaw the Cold War and launched a spectacular career that made him the rare classical musician to enjoy rock-star status, died Feb. 27, 2013, after a fight with bone cancer. He was 78. (Sept. 18, 2008)

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