President Obama awarded Van Cliburn the 2010 National Medal of the Arts in March 2011 at the White House. 
WATCH: Remembering Gay Pianist Van Cliburn

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on February 28 2013 4:51 PM ET

World-renowned classical pianist and Cold War envoy Van Cliburn died Wednesday after a battle with bone cancer. The American-born pianist was 78.

Cliburn became an international sensation after he won first place at the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, a literal and symbolic victory during the a time when the space race and the Cold War were accelerating tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. 

An exhaustive obituary in The New York Times says Cliburn was "discreet in his homosexuality," and also mentions that Cliburn is survived by Thomas L. Smith, "with whom he shared his home for many years."

Watch Cliburn's performance of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, third movement, from Moscow in 1962, below.