US classical pianist Van Cliburn died Wednesday from bone cancer, the Associated Press reported. He was 78.
The Texan shot to fame in 1958 after winning a Moscow competition at the height of the Cold War, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The New York Times said the then 23-year-old pianist’s feat was seen as a US triumph over Russia, which had recently taken the lead in the so-called space race following the launch of the Sputnik spacecraft.
Cliburn, dubbed “the Texan Who Conquered Russia” by Time magazine, returned home to a ticker-tape parade in New York and went on to enjoy a highly-successful, albeit short-lived, career on the international stage.
He withdrew from the stage in 1978, ostensibly to allow more time to enjoy his other passions, such as the opera, the Houston Chronicle reported.
"I said to myself, 'Life is too short.' I was missing too much," Cliburn told the New York Times in a 2008 interview.
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