Cliburn, Van

Cliburn, Van

(Harvey Lavan Cliburn) (klī`bərn), 1934–2013, American pianist, b. Shreveport, La. Until 1951, Cliburn studied with his mother, a concert pianist; he later was a pupil of Rosina Lhévinne at Juilliard. In 1958 Cliburn won the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow, and immediately became a cultural sensation and a cold war hero. His warm tone, superb technique, and sensitive interpretations were especially well-suited to Romantic music. In 1962 a group of his admirers created the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Tex.


See biographies by H. Reich (1993) and N. Cliff (2016); study by J. Horowitz (1990).

Cliburn, Van


(full name Harvey Lavan Cliburn, Jr.). Born July 12, 1934, in Shreveport, La. American pianist.

In 1954, Cliburn graduated from the Juilliard School of Music, where he had been a student of R. Lhevinne. He won first prize at the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow in 1958. Cliburn’s success in Moscow brought him world renown. His several concert tours in the USSR were triumphant. Cliburn’s playing is noted for spontaneity, straightforwardness, lyricism, exultant sound, and impetuous dynamism. The most interesting pieces in his repertoire are Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 3, Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1, and Liszt’s Rhapsody No. 12. He also plays sonatas of Beethoven, Prokofiev, Liszt, and S. Barber, as well as the early compositions of A. N. Scriabin.


Chasins, A., and V. Stiles. Legenda o Vene Klaiberne. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from English.)
Khentova, S. Van Klaibern, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1966.
Kogan, G. “Slushaia Klaiberna.” Voprosy pianizma. Moscow, 1968.
Kogan, G. “Tri pianista.” Voprosy pianizma. Moscow, 1968.
Rabinovich, D. “Ven Klaibern—Van Klibern.” Muzykal’naia zhizn’ 1972, no. 18.
Sokol’skii, M. “Van Klibern i russkaia muzyka.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1972, no. 10.

Cliburn, (Harvey Lavan, Jr.) Van

(1934–  ) pianist; born in Shreveport, La. He soloed with orchestras as a teenager before being catapulted to fame as the first American to win Moscow's Tchaikovsky Prize (1958). He embarked on an international solo career, specializing in the 19th-century standard repertoire, but in 1978 largely ceased performing for personal reasons. The piano competition he began in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1962 became an important international event.