Alesandro Taverna is a virtuoso pianist from Italy where he still lives and teaches.
His programme of works by Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky and Friedrich Gulda was an extremely challenging one for any young pianist and constitued a very “physically demanding” set of pieces.
He began with Beethoven’s “Eroica” Variations Op.35. This is an important masterwork from the pen of the great German from Bonn. Alesandro’s performance reminded us of the massive stature of the work and the audience was mightily pleased.
The Chopin pieces were those two lovely Nocturnes of Op.62. Not too frequently played at concerts, and Taverna completely changed his style and approach for these delicate masterpieces. Absolutely ravishing and the audience clearly loved every bar of Alesandro’s convincing interpretation, handling Chopin’s intricate melodic decorations with style and perfectly controlled delicacy.
The Rachmaninov piece was that lovely little separate Polka that he wrote for and sent to his father labelling it with “dad’s” initials: “Polka de V.R.” Another wonderful performance that appropriately led us into the interval.
The audience especially enjoyed Liszt’s amazing reconstruction for piano of Rossini’s famous overture to “William Tell”. This opened Alesandro’s second half and set the scene for piano fireworks throughout this section. The demands that Liszt makes in this Rossini simply have to be witnessed to be believed. If you were listening to a CD recording you would swear that there were two clever pianists at work. The result was highly entertaining and certainly an “audience winner” with all those lovely tunes and the exciting final gallop that everyone knows so well.
This was followed by an equally stunning set of reductions for piano of orchestral scores. This time Stravinsky himself produced piano versions of three tableaux from his own ballet “Petrushka” for his friend Artur Rubinstein back in 1921. This is a simply colossal task taken on brilliantly to produce the sonorous effects of Stravinsky’s full orchestral colours for a single piano. This, too, is a very demanding collection and the pianist has to know the orchestral score in his mind to make sense of all the things that are happening in this piano transcription. Alesandro Taverna succeeded magnificently with his flawless technique. The audience, which was the largest the Society had had all season, was gripped by the sheer poetry and total excitement of Taverna’s performance. The recital ended with two of Friedrich Gulda’s “Jazz Pieces”.
This was a man who had three distinct careers: as a world famous interpreter of all the great classical masterpieces ,including concertos: as a composer in his own right of hundreds of pieces; and finally as a Jazz Pianist who had an amazing technique and was astonishing when it came to that basic requirement of the Jazz World – improvisation. These two pieces were like virtuoso show pieces in their own style – and thus furiously difficult both rhythmically and with so many notes and octaves flying all around the keyboard. This brought the audience to its feet with cheers and a number of “curtain calls”. Alesandro Taverna responded with a complete Chopin “Valse Brillante” that everyone loved and which was played with satisfying clarity and panache at quite a crisp and effective speed. A wonderful evening of the finest quality music making.