Christopher Tavernier is known for fast, precise classical piano playing with big-screen closeups of his artistry. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
The hour-and-half solo concert starts 3 p.m., Jan. 10. The venue is HCT, at 229 S. Washington St. in Hendersonville where it has been since 2012. Admission is free. Donations are accepted, to fund HCT assisted listening devices. Thus, the concert is entitled Simple Gifts.
“I enjoy promoting Hendersonville, and giving back to the community” and its arts scene, Tavernier said Monday. He is 15, a New Millennium youth (born in 2000) and Hendersonville High School freshman.
Once equipped with listening receivers, HCT patrons individually adjust for volume. This overcomes background noise and distance, to hear plays much better. The concert kicks off the HLT season, which begins Jan. 22-31 with the contemporary musical Ordinary Days.
Those going Sunday will hear a flurry of up-tempo selections from intricate Franz Liszt, Claude Debussy, Frederic Chopin and Felix Mendelssohn of later romantic and impressionistic classical eras.
Chopin’s “Nocturne” is “more relaxing with a slow choral passage,” Christopher said. “Then it gets pretty fast” like the other pieces.
Count on even more speed, precision, authority and panache than ever from the hometown phenom and his lightning-quick fingers.
“His speed and accuracy for his age is stunning,” said Mare Madsen of Asheville after first hearing him Sept. 5. She was so inspired, she promptly bought a piano to resume her hobby. A bonus was to see on a big screen his “hands working to bring the music to life. Christopher has a very sweet finesse with dynamics and timing that enlivened the music.”
“He’ll make it sound like he’s playing with four hands,” instead of seemingly three hands as he did at a less non-stop upbeat recital Dec. 11, quipped said his father and manager Bob Tavernier. Bob and Kim Tavernier’s sons are Christopher, and Nicholas (age 10).
Last month, Christopher wowed the crowd playing faster Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody” faster and faster. “It’s so difficult, and risky,” Bob said. “If you have one memory lapse, it falls apart. It’s out of this world.” Christopher said of fast tempo, “that’s how I’ve always done it.”
This time, the ferocity persists. “It’s like doing a Beatles concert, then Led Zeppelin,” said Bob, who once played in a rock band. “It’s powerful, and high energy. It’ll be on fire.”
Christopher’s World Masterworks Series benefit concerts with his mentor Dr. John Cobb in 2015 included a yearly one raising money for free mammograms. A CD was made of that one, which focused on their specialty of Liszt Sept. 5 in Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville. DVDs of Tavernier are also available.
In the encore Sept. 5, Christopher initiated an improvisation. He struck a loud chord, as if insolently demanding attention. The two playfully tried to upstage each other with fancy, swift musical bursts. “His sense of humor came out, in their bantering back and forth,” Madsen said.
The past year was monumental. Tavernier became Perzina Pianos’ first-ever “international artist” ambassador, in its century and a half of business. He has played on Perzina pianos for nine years — since age six. He credits their gentle key action for easing muscular strain.
Freeburg Pianos in Hendersonville is the local Perzina dealer, maintains Christopher’s pianos with managing owner Keith Freeburg often doing tuning himself, and is a strong supporter of his career and such benefit shows. Concert host Dr. Joann Freeburg founded the local Hearts for the Arts program.
At 13, Tavernier became the youngest ever classical concert pianist in North Carolina. He played Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no. 1 in B Flat minor, with the Tar River Philharmonic Orchestra in Rocky Mount. That breakthrough gave new meaning to The Beatles’ line about “Roll over Beethoven, and tell Tchaikovsky the news.” He has performed on NPR radio.
Christopher Tavernier is maturing as a performer. “As you grow into the business, you develop subtleties,” Bob Tavernier said. “Christopher has more artistry.” Several who saw him last month agreed. Some pointed to his subtle showmanship with head tilts and hand lifts, others to his stylistic flair.
“I interpret the music, to tell the story with expression of the music and also body language,” Christopher said.
He now pauses longer between selections. This is not to catch his breath, rest his hands, or calm nerves. In part, he thinks of opening notes of the next piece. “That helps me get acquainted with the next piece, to get ready to play it.”
But he pauses extra to help the listener “capture the essence of the music — the tones and colors he creates,” as Bob put it. He said “when he was younger, he rushed from piece to piece. If you ‘attack’ it too soon, you don’t give people’s brains time to process the sound, feeling and spirit of a piece and let it dissipate.”
Christopher typically remains still during such interlude. He cues he is about to begin the next piece, such as by slowly raising hands above the piano keys. This subtle showmanship spurs anticipation.
Perzina CEO Ron Bol calls Christopher Tavernier a leading force in a “new generation of concert pianists, restoring the beauty, tone and colors of classical music. I have never been so impressed … Christopher showed polish, elegance and passion with great power and yet, he also showed the lightest touch — a graceful, caressing tone of beauty and passion.”
Patrons are encouraged to arrive early Sunday, due to limited (about 110) seating in HCT. Call 692-1082 or check www.hendersonvilletheatre.org about the HCT season. For more on Perzina and other premier piano brands, call 697-0110 or check freeburgpianos.com.