By Pete Zamplas – Piano virtuoso Christopher Tavernier is playing with three area orchestras soon, dedicating his main benefit concert for the Hendersonville Symphony as he plays in a rare triple-piano extravaganza.
Tavernier, a Hendersonville High School sophomore, this time will benefit a group in his hometown and a premier one in classical music. He will accompany HSO’s 20 chamber musicians to kick off the HSO season with the “Three B’s” concert, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. in Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville. HSO Music Dir. Thomas Joiner is also its conductor.
In its four prior years, all Masterworks proceeds went to pay for mammograms via Mission Hospital’s foundation in Asheville. The Music Foundation of Western North Carolina (MFWNC) is a main producer. Tickets usually sell out; they are now on sale.
Tavernier’s latest benefit concert was a second annual one Jan. 14-15 in Hendersonville Community Theatre. It benefited HCT. “I like helping out the community,” he said.
Tavernier enjoys both solo and accompaniments. “In solo concerts, I can express my interpretation of a piece,” he said. When playing with other pianists or orchestras, a challenge is coordinating “multiple interpretations” into a cohesive sound.
He has most often played with his instructor, pianist Dr. John Cobb. In the HCT benefit’s second show, he ventured into jazz blends in playing with clarinet player Matthew Hanna.
The Masterworks concert in September spans “Three B’s” of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. It begins with HSO Chamber Orchestra playing 16 Brahm waltzes from 1865.
Tavernier plays solo on the 25-minute Beethoven Waldstein Piano Sonata No. 21, to start the show’s second half. This is lauded as among Beethoven’s most intricate composition, which he penned in 1804. Uber-paced pianist Tavernier will deploy rapid left-hand runs.
This is sandwiched between all three pianists playing in two Bach Concertos for 3 Pianos. The first is in D Minor. The closer is in C Major.
The other two pianists are Fayetteville-based Jesse Davis, and Dr. Vance Reese. Davis, 40, has won awards in Vienna, Austria and performed in Europe such as in Berlin and Kiev, Ukraine. He espouses technical mastery and also “bravura,” said Christopher’s father Bob Tavernier who organizes these benefit concerts.
Reese is trained in Pace Method improvisation. He teaches music in Brevard College. He has long been Christ School’s chapel organist.
HSO Exec. Dir. Pat Tukey is grateful for the benefit concert, calling it rare to hear three pianos played at once and by such acclaimed pianists. Tukey said Tavernier is already “making quite an impact in the artistic community.”
MFWNC founder Joann Freeburg said “you won’t have to be a classical music fan to enjoy this concert. You can appreciate it from an historical, technical and performance perspective. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
For this show, three Perzina grand pianos are being custom-made in Austria with matching “sound and temperament,” Bob Tavernier noted. The pianos will be tuned for the original Baroque Period (1600-1750) vibrant sound of equal-beating Victorian temperament.
Originally in the pre-piano era, harpsichords played these concertos. The modern piano has a harder response, making it tougher to play such delicate notes. Also, the brisk Baroque sound and any gaffes stand out more.
Mostly “the Bach you hear today is not the Bach heard in 1700,” Christopher Tavernier explained. “The instruments are different; the tuning is different. But this concert will recreate the music of that era.”
Beyond that is the immense musical and technical challenge of three pianists often playing at once. Tavernier grins about that. One staging scenario is facing one (perhaps his) piano toward the other two, and between them.
Freeburg Pianos of Hendersonville will buy the gold-crested limited edition pianos, and lend them for the show. Thus, it enables a big city-like budgeted triple piano gala unusual anywhere. Christopher Tavernier is Perzina Pianos’ first-ever and sole official performing artist in its 146 years.
“Music is one of WNC’s greatest assets,” Mrs. Freeburg said. “The Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra is a leader in this community, providing world-class performances and contributing to the musical education of our young people. By supporting HSO, we are ensuring that quality musical performances and education will continue enhancing lives.”
HSO’s Youth Orchestra and Children’s Choir serve more than 140 students per year with progressive ensemble study.
People can enjoy a preview of the HSO-Tavernier collaboration on Saturday, April 29 in the Nationalistic Fervor concert. He will play in Prokoviev Concerto No. 3’s first movement, with HSO’s full orchestra of more than 70 members. This is in HSO’s usual venue, in Bo Thomas Auditorium of Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC).
Tavernier plays by virtue of winning 22nd HSO Young Artist Competition Feb. 19, for WNC high school students. Violinist Myles McKnight of Fletcher was runner-up. Prizes of $500, $300 and $200 will be awarded at the event April 29.
The top finishers will play in the free Showcase Winners Recital April 2 at 6 p.m. in Carolina Village’s hall. Tavernier plays elaborate Liszt and DeBussy pieces then, then again in Arts After Dark April 6. That gala is 5-8 p.m. in BRCC’s Conference Hall. He represents the local Arts Council. HSO, BRCC musicians, Carolina Concert Choir, Releve dancers, HCT and Flat Rock Playhouse also perform. Tickets are $25 in advance, or $30 at the door.
Continuing his orchestral tour into Rutherford County, Tavernier will play Rachmaninoff May 7 and Beethoven’s Ghost Trio May 26-28. His orchestral debut was at a state-record age of 13, with the Tar River Philharmonic Orchestra in Rocky Mount in fall 2013.
The third area orchestra he is apt to play with this year is Asheville Symphony this fall, ASO officials said. It would make up the Young People’s Concert of Asheville Amadeus Festival cancelled March 15, due to snow. About 2,500 students will see a teen play with the adult orchestra and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo (Joel Sullivan). The theme is Mozartistic, the new “kid-hop” witty rap recording of Grammy winner Skidoo with Mozart snippets.
Tavernier was tabbed as sole youth to play in the show, by winning ASO’s Young Artist Competition last year. “It’s going to be a great experience,” he said. He enjoyed the dress rehearsal March 14 with veteran, proficient musicians.
He is slated to play a Mendelssohn piece he calls “energetic, light, happy.” He said he has performed it so often, he has etched a consistent interpretation leaving no guesswork for ASO.
McKnight admires Tavernier’s “coolness,” and blend of “confidence” with “humility.” Tavernier still acts boyishly shy in taking curtain calls, which reminds the audience he is 16. But he is becoming extremely articulate with fans after shows, in explaining music he performed.
Tickets for the Three B’s concert benefiting HSO are each $36. This includes a complimentary DVD of a prior Masterwork concert with Tavernier — only if buying tickets in the Hendersonville Visitor Information Center (693-9708) at 201 S. Main St. To reserve Arts After Dark tickets, call the Chamber of Commerce at 692-1423. For more on the Sept. 2 concert, check worldmasterworkseries.com. For more on HSO, check hendersonvillesymphony.org.