Alessandro Taverna: "Music expresses emotions when words aren’t enough..."

On 25 November, the Stravinsky Big Hall of Helikon-Opera will welcome the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra giving a concert under the direction of Sergey Smbatyan, the solo to be performed by Alessandro Taverna, winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition (2009).

Alessandro Taverna: "Music expresses emotions when words aren’t enough..."

Alessandro, born in Venice, has performed in the world’s most famous halls and was awarded the Premio Presidente della Repubblica by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano for artistic achievements and his international career. In this interview, Alessandro Taverna talks about his career as a musician, which started with a recording of Mozart works on tape and continued at concert venues around the world.

You were hailed by the British music critics as the “natural successor to his great compatriot Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli”. Do you personally feel the connection between you and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli?

I’ve always smiled thinking about this comparison and I’m conscious I’m only able to try to aspire to his greatness. Of course, I feel a deep connection with his figure and with the concept of music that he embodied and conveyed: the musicians have to remain a means to let pass the real message coming from the score, and they have the duty of interpreting the musical sign with integrity and seriousness to let the emotions spring from it.

How was the passion for music and piano born and what does the Music mean to you? Have you had a musical family or particular mentor/inspiration who influenced you the most?

My parents are not musical at all and I’m not sure if there were music roots in any of my previous generations. I remember to have grown up with music as a natural thing, as something that I liked and that I’ve always tried to carry on in the most “genuine” way possible, never thinking that it should have become my job. I had a memory linked to the beginnings: it was a tape with Mozart Piano Sonata in A minor played by Sir Andras Schiff, which I loved so much that I promised myself that one day I would have been able to play it too. As a little child, I had not that kind of opportunities that technology and Internet grant nowadays: I still remember what was the joy to look at the score for the first time, when my piano teacher gave it to me.

Thinking about what Music means to me, sometimes I answer that it is a way to be able to talk about emotions with words that I would not have the courage to use.

I know that Italy is known as a country of musicians: I would ask if it is possible to be Italian and not to be a musician?

They say that Italian as a language has a special musicality (and, more generally, that our way of expressing ourselves as musicians is somehow linked to the inflections of our native language). Italy, towards which I feel a very deep bond, is surely a country which has given to mankind so much from both a musical and artistic point of view. Today, we’re probably experiencing the difficulties that, I’m sure, we find everywhere about being musicians in a world that is interested in classical music perhaps only in a small percentage: a good average amateur level is probably missing among Italian families, and this could represent a growing problem, which involves especially the education system… nevertheless, the interest on music can never be said to have faded, even in a fast-changing society like ours.

Your career path crosses with such big names in the field of classical music as Laura Ferrari, Franco Scala, Leonid Margarius and Boris Petrushansky. Can you memorize a couple of useful tips you gained from working with them?

There are both technical and expressive tips that I have learned and treasured by studying with them: indeed, I have always tried to look at the good that exists in every situation and from very different teachings, without rejecting anything “completely”, even what maybe I wasn’t totally agree with. Among all, I believe in the legato, in the importance of phrasing and in the use of a particular fingering as “first-class” expressive means.

You have already performed in different countries including in the UK, Slovenia, Switzerland and now you will perform in Russia together with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra: what are your expectations from this particular concert?

I’m really very excited, first because I’ve never performed in Moscow, and also because it’s my first meeting with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. I always think that working with the orchestra is one of the most exciting situation for a musician: it’s like make chamber music, only in a much larger size and I’m sure this magic will also take place with Maltese musicians and their Principal Conductor Sergey Smbatyan. Russia has always represented in the musical universe an essential reference point, for their incredible musical tradition and for the incomparable artistic legacy, therefore being there will be a moment of deep emotion and great responsibility.

Could you tell us what is the music programme for the concert at the Stravinsky Big Hall of Helikon-Opera?

The evening will be opened by Alexey Shor’s “Travel Notebook”, and this will be followed by Nicolò Isouard’s “Du Medecin Turc” Overture, Charles Camilleri “Mediterranean Dances” and Albert Garzia’s “Suite” from “Bahr”.

You will perform a suite “Travel Notebook” by American-Maltese composer Alexey Shor. How can you describe his music?

Highly imaginative. It’s something very much provoking for the soloist, because of its undoubtedly modern language, its originality and, why not, for its catchiness. I had the feeling, by sitting on the piano to study this piece, to be able to breathe a different air, fresh, that doesn’t sound like “academic”, a music that is not a prisoner of schemes or that does not have to pay a tribute to anybody but that is free to express itself according to the limpid composer’s primitive idea.

Are you excited to perform Maltese music together with truly Maltese musicians – the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra – on the same stage?

As I said before, I’m very much looking forward to play this piece with 100% Maltese musicians. And hopefully, after this first meeting, to play together again in Malta!

Russia is a country with a great passion for piano music and orchestral music. What are your main thoughts on this country having a big relation with the music?

The word “passion” in its authentic meaning can exactly explain the relation between Russia and music: I would add the word “colorful” (my first musical memories related to this country, are linked to the choreographies and the ballets by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Stravinsky, as well as to its extraordinary performers). I expect to breathe the same enthusiasm that I’ve always felt by watching and listening to the Russian masterpieces of last century, together with a sense of deep seriousness and respect.

Do you have your favourite Russian composers?

Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Scriabin and Stravinsky are certainly among my absolute favorite ones.

Have you ever participated in projects organized by the European Foundation for Support of Culture? Do you have any plans to continue your cooperation with the Foundation?

This is the first time for me, and I definitely hope to continue in this project that promotes and helps through culture to establish international relations in a wider sense… and we know they are necessary, especially nowadays.

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