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Funeral For Famed Pianist Van Cliburn Held Sunday

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - The funeral for a larger-than-life Texan was held Sunday in Fort Worth. He was celebrated by presidents, heads of state, and friends who knew him best.

Van Cliburn, the man who used a piano to turn the cold war on its ear, died Wednesday at his Fort Worth home after a lengthy battle with bone cancer.

US President George W. Bush (R) awards US pianist Van Cliburn (L) with the Presidential Medals of Freedom during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House 23 July 2003 in Washington, DC. Van Cliburn was honored for his contributions to the arts and to the nation.  Former Czech President Vaclav Havel watches from behind. MANNY CENETA/AFP/Getty Images

US President George W. Bush (R) awards US pianist Van Cliburn (L) with the Presidential Medals of Freedom during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House 23 July 2003 in Washington, DC. Van Cliburn was honored for his contributions to the arts and to the nation. Former Czech President Vaclav Havel watches from behind. MANNY CENETA/AFP/Getty Images

Cliburn, the Kilgore native, rose to international fame in 1958 by winning the first International Tchaikovsky Competition for Piano in Moscow.

He returned to the United States to a hero’s welcome, including a ticker-tape parade in New York. After settling in Fort Worth, the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition was established in his honor.

Cliburn’s funeral Sunday was held at Broadway Baptist Church, near the intersection of South Main Street and West Broadway just south of downtown Fort Worth.

Cliburn was a member of Broadway Baptist Church for decades. He will be entombed at the Greenwood Memorial Park mausoleum.

The funeral featured tributes from President George W. Bush, Governor Rick Perry, and a reading of one of Cliburn’s poem’s by Paul Harvey, Jr.

Current President Barack Obama sent a statement of condolence to Cliburn’s family Sunday,  it read:

This week, we mark the passing of Van Cliburn, one of the most talented pianists of the last century and a musical artist of rare distinction. At the young age of 23, Mr. Cliburn swept the world off its feet with his winning performance at the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, and he quickly became a beloved ambassador of American culture around the world – especially in the former Soviet Union. His music transcended the challenges of international politics and contributed to an unlikely thaw in Cold War relations. He was truly a man of his moment. Like every President since Harry Truman, I enjoyed the privilege of hearing Mr. Cliburn play, and I am confident that the enduring beauty of his art will sustain his legendary status for years to come. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Mr. Cliburn’s loved ones.

Additionally, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent one on behalf of the Russian Federation:

It is with deep sorrow that I learned of the death of Van Cliburn, one of the most outstanding musicians of Modern times. His passing away is a tremendous loss for all the admirers of Maestro’s many faceted talents, for everyone who knew this brilliant, extraordinarily charming and open human being. Over the course of many years, during the most difficult historical times, the art of Van Cliburn brought together people from different countries, different continents and united them. He brought the light of kindness, fairness and faith in the power of art.

We shall always remember Van Cliburn as a true and sincere friend of the Russian people. His artistic journey was closely connected to our country where he attained worldwide recognition after his brilliant victory at the First International Tchaikovsky Competition. Please convey my words of support and deep condolences to the relatives and loved ones of this great musician.

The funeral also featured a number of musical tributes to Cliburn, including Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Opus 27.

Services were open to the public.

Van Cliburn was 78 years old.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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