The great classical pianist Van Cliburn has passed at age 78. The man had a cavernous soul and miraculous fingers. He had a distinguished and fulfilling run, peaking at age 23 when he won a Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow and soon after landing on the cover of Time magazine on 5.19.58. So he peaked 55 years ago but at least he peaked. Very few of us get to the stand on top of the highest mountain.

From Joe Leydon‘s Moving Picture Blog: “I met the late, great Van Cliburn only once, decades ago, during my days at The Shreveport Times, when the famed pianist returned to his hometown to perform with local symphony. (Sorry, Time: He really was a Louisiana native.)

“But he told me something during our brief interview that has always stuck in my mind: ‘If I have talent,” he said, ‘it’s a gift from God. But if I have a career, it’s a gift from the audience. Because they don’t have to come see me, or buy my records.'”