By Pete Zamplas- Christopher Tavernier, the classical piano prodigy from Hendersonville, will play with the Brevard Music Center Orchestra on Sunday, July 23 by virtue of being among six young adult winners at a recent competition.
Soloists of Tomorrow is the annual showcase. It starts 3 p.m., in the outdoor Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium. It features Beethoven’s sophisticated Fourth Concerto, and Symphony No. 1 of Sir Michael Kemp Tippett (1905-98) with “Beethoven dynamism” according to the BMC program.
Ticket-holders to that event can first hear the artists at a free recital 2 p.m. in Thomas Hall. Ken Lam conducts the orchestra.
“I’m really excited for the performance on the 23rd,” with BMC’s full adult orchestra, BMC summer (June 22-Aug. 6) student Tavernier said while between classes last Thursday.
Jan and Beattie Wood Concerto Competition Finals were Sunday night, July 2 on stage in BMC’s amphitheater. Judges chose six of 12 finalists as winners, to play with BMCO July 23.
Each winner also gets a full scholarship valued at $6,400 to train at Brevard Music Center next summer, in 2018. This annual contest is open to full-session BMC instrumental students, for any of 19 types of instruments.
“I feel honored and privileged to be selected as a winner,” The rising Hendersonville High School junior Tavernier said of competing against mostly collegians in the Wood competition. “It was an eye-opening experience — to be able to hear so many musicians around my age playing classical music, and hearing the variety of repertoire the everyone played.”
Socially, he is enjoying his first-ever full summer session at BMC, living and studying there daily for six weeks with collegians and others. “It’s great being around people that have similar ambitions as me, and can relate on different levels that you don’t get anywhere else,” said Tavernier, who turned 17 in May.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s easy to go into an in-depth discussion of the structure of a Beethoven Sonata, without losing the person you’re talking with.”
Ever advancing in his craft technically and performance-wise, at BMC “I’m learning how to apply myself a bit more to the music, and thinking about it from different perspectives.”
The busy schedule typically has a full day of classes, concerts in evenings with a weekly private lesson. Norman Krieger is his main BMC instructor. Dr. John Cobb has been Tavernier’s primary piano teacher, for a decade.
The BMC Piano Competition will be later this summer. Each contestant plays for 30-40 total minutes. Cash prizes total $7,000, with $3,000 for first.
The other Wood pianist winner is Indiana Hoosier grad student Jamie Shum. The third pianist competitor, a University of Hartford student, led off the pianist trio with Shum playing next.
The only other high school student finalists were a marimba player — also a winner — from Big Rapids, Mich., and an oboist from Modesto, Calif. They reflect the cross-national spread of BMC students, and Wood contestants. Collegian finalists include grad students from LSU and Baylor, and a Brigham Young student.
The Wood competition excludes previous winners. Each contestant submitted a video for the initial phase. Semifinals were on BMC campus — June 29 for pianists. The finals’ judge, Joseph Young, is Atlanta Symphony assistant conductor and its Youth Orchestra music director.
In finals, each youth played one movement of a concerto live. Pianist competitors had to choose from a list of 16 concertos. That included two by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953), one of the composers whose works Tavernier vividly plays.
He earned a standing ovation from an audience of BMC summer students and the public. Tavernier performed Sergei Prokofiev’s emotional Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Opus 26.
“When we heard his Prokofiev that night, it was on another level in articulation and dynamics,” his father Bob Tavernier said. “He totally blew us away.”
He played the first movement. It features piano exploding in fluid harmony, soon ringing sounds of an Army marching. Prokofiev wrote it during and after World War I. Then in the second theme, several lines of octaves are played in triplet rhythm.
Those who have seen Tavernier play will recognize this is an example of his swiftly progressing up and down the keyboard —with one hand swirling above the other. Intricate fingering and phrasing soon follows. Next are ascending parallel triads and glissandi, later frenzied sixteenth-note arpeggios.
Tavernier keeps taking his playing to further levels. He did so when playing with Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra April 29. By then, more than ever, he was subtly lifting arms and torso up. Then he leans head forward, and hands propel downward with greater velocity and force into strokes. This produces crisper notes, and fuller sound.
Tavernier has won several other honors and competitions since age nine. He won Young Artist Competitions of Asheville (in ’16) then Hendersonville (HSO, in ’17) symphonies. He was a semifinalist among 14 teen pianists in the Midwest International Piano Competition, in Iowa last summer. Contestants represented a dozen countries, many from the Orient out of a core group of around 90 premier youth pianists globally. He is in the Asheville Area Piano Forum.
Tavernier plays many benefit concerts. A major one is his fifth annual World Masterwork Series in Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville. This one will be performances of Bach, Brahms and Beethoven classics with two other pianists and HSO, Sept. 2 to benefit HSO.
BMC students rotate into weekly recitals. A special treat is that some of them got international airplay July 5 and 12, on the weekly show Young Artists Showcase of WQXR in New York City. The show is on Wednesdays at 9 p.m.
Longtime BMC Artistic Dir. Keith Lockhart appreciates the esteemed outlet giving “outstanding young talents a stage, a venue, a platform to show their accomplishments.” He added that BMC curriculum and repertoire selection provides “the best educational experience possible” for nearly 500 students. He calls BMC a “real-time young artists showcase.”
For details of the BMC concert July 23, check:
https://issuu.com/brevardmusiccenter/docs/2017_bmc_overture_magazine/97. Tickets for July 23 are $15-57. To order tickets for BMC shows, go to: https://tickets.brevardmusic.org.