Jul 14th 2013

Alessandro Deljavan: The Art of Joy

by Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson is a music critic with particular interest in piano. 

Johnson worked as a reporter and editor in New York, Moscow, Paris and London over his journalism career. He covered European technology for Business Week for five years, and served nine years as chief editor of International Management magazine and was chief editor of the French technology weekly 01 Informatique. He also spent four years as Moscow correspondent of The Associated Press. He is the author of five books.

Michael Johnson is based in Bordeaux. Besides English and French he is also fluent in Russian.

You can order Michael Johnson's most recent book, a bilingual book, French and English, with drawings by Johnson:

“Portraitures and caricatures:  Conductors, Pianist, Composers”

 here.

A young man from provincial Italy brought style back to the recent Van Cliburn Piano Competition with unbridled displays of joy at the keyboard and a mature artist’s mastery of the music. The audience exploded in shouts and stomps after his performances and webcast viewers around the world showered him with praise. The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram dubbed the phenomenon “Deljamania”.

This extraordinary Italian, Alessandro Deljavan, was bounced out after the semifinals. 


The four photos in this article are by courtesy of St. Worth Star-Telegram

He is still recuperating at home in Pescara. “This competition took a lot out of him emotionally,” says his teacher William Naboré, director of the International Piano Academy Lake Como.

But in a series of email exchanges, Delvjavan happily recalled his experience, his career and his life at the piano for me.  He is far too generous and well-disposed, far too “nice”, say his friends, to second-guess what happened.  “Totally understandable,” he said.

Nevertheless, he has no intention of continuing in the competition world. This was his second Cliburn, and a few weeks ago he withdrew from the next major, the Cleveland International. He would have had a good shot at the finals.  


“I think the mental and physical stress can destroy a person and yet in some ways it is a superficial experience,” he said. He needs two weeks to prepare for any recital, “so can you imagine what’s involved to prepare for five hours of competition performances over 12 days? And if the principal interest in the pianist is the legs, the gown, the school or the teacher, I’m sure there will be worse and worse cases.”

He deplores the requirements of constrained pianistic style at competitions. “I want to be an old-time pianist,” he says. “All my models died many years ago. If I have to change my style to compete, I am not being honest.” 

Deljavan’s bear-like physique, designer stubble, somewhat paunchy waist and powerful arms tapering to long, fine fingers, makes him a memorable performer in any venue. At the Cliburn, his musicality merged with extreme sensitivity and an exaggerated personalized style of playing. When lost in the music, his face mirrors every emotion brought out by the composer’s chords, phrases, key changes, dynamics and shifts of mood.  When he plays, he seems in ecstasy or on the verge of tears, depending on the music.

Some critics fault him for excesses, even calling him “eccentric”.  But he knows what works best for him. “I am in love with music,” he says. “If I control my playing, I will lose my natural feel. Sometimes music makes me cry, sometimes music makes me scream. What I really hate is hearing artificial ideas, an artificial sense of phrasing.” 


He jokes about the public comments on his open emotionalism. “If the Cliburn had been a competition of facial expressions I know I would have won all the prizes, even the jury prizes!”

I will never control my style,” he said. “Here’s what a real musician is – control the brain and the heart and listen intently to what you are playing. Listen with two big ears and 20 small ears—two for each finger.” 

Naboré recalls the letter from Deljavan’s mother several years ago asking him to hear the 18-year-old Alessandro play and help decide whether he had a future at the piano. Naboré receives many such letters from hopeful mothers, and he decided to listen to him in Milan one afternoon. He had low expectations, seeing no distinguished academic achievements or prizes the boy could claim to have achieved. Alessandro chose to run through some Debussy and Schubert.

“I remember thinking, ‘Why this is quite unbelievable.’ I was flabbergasted,” Naboré told me.  “This was a blockbuster talent. What I was hearing was real musicianship and apart from that he was already a real artist. You can’t fake that.” Naboré decided on the spot to take the young Alessandro into the Academy and within a few months he was admitted. 

Much of his musical development has revolved around the academy – its master classes from visiting teachers and the ongoing support and teaching from Naboré personally.

“Music is love, and Maestro Naboré is the very image of love,” Alessandro said. “He loves every one of his students like his own children. Being a student with him is like winning 100 million dollars in the lottery. But even with that you cannot buy the richness of soul he teaches you.” 


The son of an Italian mother and an Iranian father, Alessandro was fortunate to be urged along by both parents. His mother, he says, had hoped for a musician child even during pregnancy. At the age of 4, he started piano with a young Pescara teacher, Valentina Chiola, and a Polish-Belgian composer, conductor and pianist Piiotr Lachert. He dedicated only two hours a day to practicing, quite short sessions compared to most gifted children.

He discovered that he had a gift for sight-reading, and plunged into Bach. He says he still has dreams related to Bach’s C major Prelude from the Well-Tempered Clavier, which he was playing at the age of 7.  “I will always remember my mother, who entered the music room applauding me.” 

After graduating from the Verdi Conservatory at 16 he was taken on by Ricardo Risaliti, then by Enrico Belli. Under Belli he worked toward his second-level degree at the Fermo Conservatory. “Belli was the person who first gave me a complex understanding of music. That’s when I started studying – studying with a capital S.” Belli helped him discover a passion for Schubert and also expanded his repertoire.

He now considers Bach and Schubert his main interests although he is working on Beethoven and the final opus of Schumann. His Bach owes much to the late Rosalyn Tureck who was a friend of Naboré’s and had been associated with the Como school in the years just before her death.  “Her sense of the phrase in Bach is something I cannot describe in words,” Alessandro said. He regrets never meeting her “except many times listening to her recordings.” 

The future seems crowded for the Cliburn semifinalist. He has seven or eight engagements in the works and will return to Cliburn territory to play the Rachmanninov Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Ft. Worth Symphony at the end of August. He has nine CD recordings on the market and is considering a new CD of Schumann’s piano works. He is currently at work on the complete Beethoven piano and violin sonatas with violinist Daniela Cammarano.  “We are working extremely hard on this and are sure we can offer something different,” he says.

Naboré will continue to help hi and progress. “Alessandro has that special x factor that others do not have,” he says. “I think he’s going to make it big, and sooner rather than later. It’s all because of the size of the talent.”

End.







Facts & Arts is a platform for owners of high quality content to distribute their content to a worldwide audience.

Facts & Arts' objective is to enhance the distribution of individual owners' content by combining various types of high quality content that can be assumed to interest the same audience. The thinking is that in this manner the individual pieces of content on Facts & Arts support the distribution of one another.

If you have fitting written material, classical music or videos; or if you would like to become one of our regular columnists, a book reviewer or music reviewer; or if you wish to market or broadcast a live event through Facts & Arts, please contact us at info@factsandarts.com.




     

 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Music Reviews

Jul 5th 2024
EXTRACTS: "The Conservative Party, which was finally pronounced dead from multiple unnatural causes on July 5 2024, was born in 1832." ---- " Strange as it might now appear, the party was once very popular and respected, even by its opponents. Educated at Eton and Oxford, it established a reputation for governing competence which allowed it to bounce back from serious setbacks, notably the landslide Labour victory of 1945." ---- "The end of the cold war debunked the notion that the Conservatives had restored Britain’s former global status. Unwilling to acknowledge their country’s subservience to the United States, the party’s dominant nationalist faction could now only rage against reality by identifying the European Union, and post-war immigration, as the twin culprits for the depletion of British political influence and cultural uniformity." ---- "The Conservative party has presented a sorry spectacle to sympathetic observers in its undignified post-Brexit dying days. It became prone to hallucinations, first believing that Boris Johnson could be a successful prime minister then replacing him with Liz Truss."
Jun 17th 2024
EXTRACT: "Question: Isn’t piano study a big problem in the USA, with all the electronic games and distractions from music lessons? ---- Answer: The problem is also in Europe. We have lost a lot of quality, in terms of knowledge behind the music. The schools do not make the transmission from the composers to us. We owe that to the composers. And it’s very sad because now we focus on goals and competition, and competition does not go well with art.
Jun 9th 2024
EXTRACT: "Question: Isn’t it true, as the musicologist Kyle Gann says, that one cannot judge immediately what’s good or bad in contemporary music? We must wait 20 years. Answer: Yes, look at Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”. It caused a scandal. It was booed and rejected by everyone. Now it’s standard in the concert hall. In jazz, I think it’s not 20 years, but more like 50 years before we know what has worked or not. One has to step back and reflect on whether we have brought something new."
Mar 9th 2024
EXTRACT: "In a way, every experience you have, every book you read, every movie you watch, every place you visit, every encounter you have, every moment you spend with friends or family, they leave a mark on you and direct you indirectly and therefore leave their mark on your playing.", says Boris Giltburg in Michael Johnson's and Frances Wilson's new book 'Lifting the Lid: Interviews with Concert Pianists', now available on Amazon.
Feb 27th 2024
EXTRACT: "Question: Some pianophiles say the CD could be useful for meditation, therapy or even healing. ---- Answer: Indeed, that is the kind of feedback I am getting. But this music doesn’t belong to me any more, therefore I cannot label it with any purpose. It has taken on a life of its own. I can’t say how it affects the life of other people. Will it be therapeutic or will it have another effect? Time will tell."
Dec 4th 2023
EXTRACT: "Seated in a quiet corner of a Bordeaux hotel last week, we had an interview – more a casual chat – about her life, her Soviet Russian origins, her career, her future."
Nov 27th 2023
EXTRACT: "Schiff creates an atmosphere that we 'seniors' remember from the old days. No clowning, no bouncing on the bench, no outlandish clothing. He dresses in a black smock, black trousers, black shoes, topped off with a mane of pure white hair. His manners, his grateful bowing, are très Old Europe. ---- Schiff keeps control of his two hours onstage. He believes that dignity goes with the great music on the program and he scarcely moves as he plays."
Nov 19th 2023
EXTRACT: "  Boston-based guitarist, band leader and composer Phil Sargent is not about churning out endless CDs. In fact his ten-year recording gap, just ended, had his fans wondering where he was. But in New York and Boston, he tells me, he has never stopped working with other groups while composing and actively teaching young and mature talent. Although not always visible, he seems to be a confirmed workaholic, even practicing five hours a day. Yes, virtuosos also need to practice. ---- And now he is back. His new CD, 'Sons'....."
Nov 19th 2023
EXTRACT: "There is a renewed fascination with the memory-stimulating and healing powers of music. This resurgence can primarily be attributed to recent breakthroughs in neuroscientific research, which have substantiated music’s therapeutic properties such as emotional regulation and brain re-engagement. This has led to a growing integration of music therapy with conventional mental health treatments."
Sep 28th 2023
EXTRACT: "British psychotherapist, Michael Lawson, who has worked with several prodigies and former prodigies, calculates there may be as many as 200,000 piano prodigies active in the world today. “In a sense, they are not that rare,” he says in our interview below. Lawson is author of International Acclaim: The Steinfeld Legacy a new novel of the great pianists of the 19th and early 20th centuries in which the prodigy phenomenon is described in some detail."
Sep 17th 2023
EXTRACT: "Like so many stories about relationships told over an extended time, Past Lives uncovers the twists and turns, the “what ifs” and the manifold choices that lead to two people wondering whether they were meant to be together."
Sep 12th 2023
EXTRACT: " OrpheusPDX, a new company founded by Christopher Mattaliano in Portland, Oregon, concluded its second season with a brilliant and thought-provoking production of Nico Muhly’s “Dark Sisters,” at Lincoln Hall (August 24), exploring and exposing relationships in a polygamous sect and the courage of one sister-wife to leave it. With Stephen Karam’s libretto inspired by memoirs of women who have left the FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints) and the 2008 raid of the YFZ Ranch by the FBI, “Dark Sisters” was delivered with spot-on directing by Kristine McIntyre and riveting performances by an exceptional cast."
Aug 30th 2023
EXTRACT: "Wagner’s operas are well known to be budget busters, and lack of funds is probably one of the main reasons that Seattle Opera has not mounted the Ring Cycle in since 2013. After Speight Jenkins retired from his post as General Director in 2014, the company delivered The Flying Dutchman (2016) and Tristan und Isolde (2022), the latter under its current General Director, Christina Scheppelmann. Now starting its 60th season, Seattle Opera celebrated with Das Rheingold, but that can be seen as a bittersweet moment since Scheppelmann is moving on to take over La Monnaie/De Munt in Brussels at the end of the 2023-2024 season."
Jul 6th 2023
EXTRACT: " More than a hundred recordings have been made of his suite of 14 light pieces he called “The Carnival of the Animals”, and a range of his other works remain in the standard repertoire."
Jun 18th 2023
EXTRACT: "Conservatories and university music departments are filling up with fee-paying Asians as their parents pressure them to succeed in the West. Piano competitions around the world, now numbering about 800, are open to this new wave of Asian players. They are winning top prizes and they are building careers in Europe and the U.S.  Too often, according to some teachers, young Americans prefer computer games, the latest movies, rock bands, sports, or other less-demanding activities. The Asians are happy to fill the vacuum."
May 30th 2023
EXTRACT: "Three of Europe’s longtime leaders in contemporary jazz, now in their senior years, have just launched a CD of twelve  pieces that shows what a lifetime of sharing ideas in music can really produce." “New Stories” (Frémeaux et Associés) by the French trio of pianist and composer Hervé Sellin, bassist Jean-Paul Celea and drummer Daniel Humair is remarkable for improvisations so synchronized that the listener can feel the music come together from three angles in real time. The tracks were mostly composed or improvised by Sellin."
Mar 28th 2023
EXTRACT: "The young ex-dancer from Italy first burst upon the piano scene three years ago with 20 of her hand-picked Scarlatti sonatas. Now comes her second CD (Academy Classical Music) even more original and powerful, performing six of Baldassare Galuppi’s 18th century sonatas. Margherita Torretta‘s early training as a dancer gives her playing a swaying, graceful air while she maintains Alberti bass for control of the rhythm, momentum and especially continuity. Her ornamentation is boosted with some of her own improvisations, producing a fresher feel. It’s a magic combination."
Mar 24th 2023
EXTRACT: "Driven by a sense of mission and determination over several years, French pianist Lydia Jardon has completed a rare cycle of nine piano sonatas by Nikolai Miaskovsky. Her new CD  of numbers 6, 7 and 8 completes the task and offers a particularly rich sample of Russian experience in the worst of times. Miaskovsky may be only vaguely remembered today but he was a leader in the Soviet music world until the end of World War II. He left a wide range of engaging sonatas that have been brought back to life by Mme. Jardon on her own label AR Ré-Sé (AR 2022-1)."
Mar 16th 2023
EXTRACTS: "The most ambitious application yet of Steinway’s new digital piano, Spirio r, delivers stunning levels of sound and color in the new CD release of The Richter Scale, an hour-long keyboard drama written by well-known German composer and pianist Boris Bergmann." ----- "For the first time, the Spirio has been configured on a Steinway D grand to enable four-hand pieces to be played by two hands. The secondo score is first recorded in playback mode then combined with the live primo part. Liu is the live player who has to coordinate and fuse the two."---- "I took Bergmann’s advice and listened to the full composition from start to finish to best feel the gathering emotional turbulence. I was gripped by the melodies, harmonies, rhythms and percussive explosions along the way."
Feb 10th 2023
EXTRACT: "The piano music of Belgian composer Joseph Jongen is rapidly emerging from obscurity where it has reposed since his death in 1953. One of the champions of this rebirth is the Serbian-American pianist Ivan Ilic who acknowledges he discovered Jongen only by accident. Researching early 20th century music, he recalls, “somehow Jongen appeared on my radar.” He quickly dived into archives in Belgium and became immersed in Jongen’s prolific output."