The great Van Cliburn, suffering for so long from bone cancer, has died at 78 in Fort Worth. Most folks today could be forgiven for not knowing much or anything but he was a true giant in my youth, in late 1950s and early 1960s, when he was on TV often and helped forge an easing in the Cold War in his much-covered trips to the Soviet Union. With Leonard Bernstein and Glenn Gould, he also helped "popularize" classical music at that time (or as much as it could be). He faded from view later, although he still hosted the important Cliburn piano competition every year, and drew notice when he came out as gay.
From my friend Tim Page's obit just now at The Washington Post: "Mr. Cliburn’s achievement was reported on the front pages of newspapers
throughout the world. He returned home to a New York ticker-tape parade
and the sort of shrieking, unfettered adulation that a few years later
would be transmuted into Beatlemania. In May 1958, Time magazine put him
on its cover with a banner that read The Texan Who Conquered Russia."
Here is one of my favorite music videos--Van doing Beethoven's piano concerto No. 5, 2nd movement, in Moscow, as young man. Never been better.