Public officials react to Van Cliburn's death

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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"Van Cliburn lived an extraordinary life and was a true man of his times. His prodigious gifts at the piano are legendary, and his storied accomplishment at the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition helped bring the world closer together. His larger-than-life talent helped transcend discourse and reminded us that we are, at the core of our being, all human beings who love works of beauty. On a personal note, Anita and I will miss him tremendously. We were blessed to call Van Cliburn a close friend. He was an incredibly thoughtful person and his love of life was contagious to anyone in his company. Anita and I send our deepest condolences to his family, friends and fans during this difficult time." -- Gov. Rick Perry

"A national treasure has passed away today. Van Cliburn was the greatest pianist of his time in the world, and yet made his home with his friends and family in his beloved Texas. His long-standing friendship with the Russian people eased tensions between our countries, as diplomats and governments could not. He will be missed by his many friends and admirers, of which I am one." -- former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

"I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of my good friend, Van Cliburn. Van's incredible talent made history and inspired America and the world. But to all who knew him, he will be remembered for his generous spirit, his modesty and his sense of humor. Van made Fort Worth, and our country so proud. He will be dearly missed." -- Rep. Kay Granger

"Fort Worth lost one of its greatest ambassadors today. Van Cliburn single-handedly helped thrust Fort Worth on the international stage, and we will never forget his spirit, his talents or the proud legacy he leaves in our community and around the world. Personally, I will remember him as a warm, funny, caring individual with a wonderful personality. Van was a man that you couldn't help but love." -- Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, on Facebook

"Everyone at the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra grieves the loss of Van Cliburn today. Van is not only one of history's finest musicians, but Fort Worth's most treasured legend, and one of the greatest men I have ever known. As a young girl studying piano in west Texas, Van was my hero who inspired my lifelong love of music, and he remains my hero to this day. His devotion and love of the Fort Worth Symphony was unmatched, and in return our love and gratitude for him is infinite. We mourn his loss and will hold Van in our hearts forever." -- Amy Adkins, President and CEO, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Association

"The Fourteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in May 2013 will be dedicated to Van. The Competition that bears his name captures the essence of Van's passion for spreading the love of classical music. The Cliburn's mission is to carry forward his spirit in advancing music throughout the world with tremendous joy and determination. We have all been inspired by Van's life, his work, the sparkle in his eyes, and the love in his heart. It is a privilege to have known and loved him." -- Carla Kemp Thompson, chairman of the Van Cliburn Foundation

"Without reservation I can say he's been one of the most artistically important influences on my life. His devotion to classical music, the way he approached classical music, his philosophy of the performer's role, has always lived with me and been part of my musical listening and my attempt to fulfill that aspect when I perform. I've never known anyone who loved classical music to the depth that he did, and not just piano music. He was just a rare and wonderful person." -- John Giordano, former conductor of the Fort Worth Symphony and longtime chairman of the jury, Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

"Van Cliburn was a gentle giant and huge fan of all the arts. An iconic presence who visited us all warmly backstage at different venues to share his joy in the production. With a great sense of humor. He would stay up all night at a party and sleep all day. His hands must've been insured for millions. They were the biggest hands I ever shook and the tallest man I ever hugged. I looked like the Mayor of Munchkinland next to him. He always came backstage to say hello after our shows at Casa Manana ... along with his adorable mother." -- B.J. Cleveland, actor/director, Dallas Children's Theater; former artistic director, Theatre Arlington; former actor/director, Casa Manana

"He was very modest, gracious and generous. He was very tall, very imposing, and all of this came through in the playing -- he was a major personality when he played, and he really towered over the stage in every sense. He was still a great American hero to the end of his life. -- Acclaimed pianist Stephen Hough, as told to BBC News

"Van’s support and involvement have been tremendously important in the life of Bass Performance Hall. Beyond the inspiration he provided as the project began to coalesce twenty years ago, Van essentially named the Hall. At the very first meeting of the board of directors of Performing Arts Fort Worth, Van rose as the meeting was called to order, before any other piece of business was addressed, and delivered an eloquent speech insisting the future hall be named for Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass. It was more than two years before the board officially acted on the suggestion, but there was never any doubt. Van had planted a very fertile seed. Van spent his entire life planting fertile seeds that have proliferated into wonderful artistic and cultural manifestations around the world." -- Ed Bass, Fort Worth investor and philanthropist

"Van Cliburn nurtured so many young artists in this world. Growing up a pianist in Shreveport, I've always felt a strong connection to Van and owe him my career in music as I attended the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and received money from the Rildia Bee O'Bryan Cliburn Scholarship, named for Van's mother. It's a somber day for us here at WRR Classical 101 but his music and legacy will live on." -- Sarah Colmark, general manager, WRR/101.1 FM

"When I was a kid taking piano lessons, my dad wrote the name of the person who best played the music I was trying to play in my songbook and had me listen to a recording, so I could hear how it was supposed to sound. Nearly every song in my book had 'Van Cliburn' written on it. My dad had ALL of his records. I met him and told him that story. He asked if I still played, and I said I had to stop when my hands stopped growing. He said, 'Well how long are your fingers?' and he held his hand up to mine. His fingers were 3 times longer than mine. We were at a charity function, sitting next to each other, and he talked to me for hours. THE absolute nicest 'celebrity' I've ever, ever met. I will listen to those CDs all day today and remember him." -- Rebecca Miller, former KXAS/Channel 5 and KDAF/Channel 33 meteorologist, on Facebook

"I was always impressed that he always had time for people. He was always super-poite and friendly. To me, he was the biggest star in Fort Worth, ever. And yet as much as a man his height could, he was happy to blend into the crowd. He was so humble, and just a wonderful, sweet guy. The very first time I met him was in the early '60s. I was doing a talk show on Channel 5, and I had him as a guest. We asked him if he would play something, and he [agreed]. So I said to the people at the station, 'Listen, you've got to get the piano tuners in here! We can't sit him down at some out-of-tune piano!' ... He sat and played, and I kind of sat on the bench alongside him, and I was impressed at how big his hands were, how long his fingers were. I'm the extreme opposite. I have very small hands. So we put our hands against each other, and it just made people laugh, it was such a difference." -- Bobbie Wygant, entertainment reporter, KXAS/Channel 5

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