He must hold the record for “earliest start” among this year’s Cliburn competitors.
“I began to play piano when I was one year and eight months [old],” says Italian pianist Alessandro Deljavan, 26. “I know it seems strange, but that is true.” Another “image” he recalls: “I remember my father sitting on my bed near the small piano when I was about seven, listening to me. My father died some years later after a long illness, and this is one of my best memories.”
Deljavan’s other Cliburn claim to fame is that he is the only “returning” competitor from the 2009 Van Cliburn. He was the winner of that competition’s John Giordano Jury Chairman Discretionary Award, and he is delighted to be staying again with attorney Jon Suder, who hosted him four years ago.
“I call my friend Jon ‘the boss’,” says Deljavan. And of their friendship, he adds, “It is not possible to tell only a little. He is a true friend, one of the persons I will always be able to trust.” Deljavan says he felt “near” to Suder from the first minutes they met, and by now: “After four years, I think we can conduct a TV [talk] show together!”
The thing he likes best about piano competitions, he tells us, is “to know people like Jon and his family, to be part of something big, something that one day will be part of my life history.” The other thing he enjoys, he adds frankly, is the great feeling of “going back home after 25 days under pressure!”
Deljavan makes his home in Pescara, Italy a small but popular resort city on the Adriatic coast, east of Rome. He graduated at age 16 from Milan’s Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory. He currently studies both at the Conservatory of Lugano in Switzerland (where he is a Theo Lieven Scholar and a student of pianist William Grant Naborè), and at the International Piano Academy in Lake Como.
He has performed in the major Italian cities, and in Argentina, France, Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Colombia, Poland, Slovakia and the United States. And Deljavan is a rather prolific recording artist as well: his CDs of the works of Busoni, Schubert, Schumann, Satie (and others) are out on the Naxos, Brilliant, OnClassical, Piano Classics and Stradivarius labels. In 2010, he won second prize at the Isang Yun International Piano Competition.
Does he play musical “favorites” among composers?
“Bach,” he tells us, “is the beginning of my story as a musician. Everything I am is connected to him, his partitias, toccatas, capricci. I feel and remember the most important moments of my life with Bach’s music.” Schubert and Mozart, he adds, “are the other composers that I feel are very close to me, and that I face with much less fear.”
Deljavan is also an accomplished chamber musician who has played with the Takacs Quartet and the Sine Nomine Quartet, among others. He is a member of the “Trio Bettinelli” and of a duo that arose from his collaborations with the violinist Daniela Cammarano.
“Chamber music is a whole world adjacent to the solo world,” Deljavan says. It’s a world he enjoys, but one he thinks requires “an extremely important talent, very rare in my opinion: to hear. I know many wonderful pianists who have a problem hearing what’s happening—and in a collaborative recital, that can’t work.” He is, clearly, excited by the prospect of working with the Brentano String Quartet, which is making its first appearance at the Cliburn this year.
He is a big fan of another “Boss”—Bruce Springsteen—and of the great Italian group Elio e le storie Tese. (Look them up—they can’t be described.) “They are amazing, and they are fans of my football team, Inter!” he says. (That’s Milan’s big soccer powerhouse.) And as for his second time around in Fort Worth, Deljavan says bring it on: “I am very open to do anything Texan!”
◊ Here is Alessandro Deljavan performing a Chopin etude (Op. 25):
◊ Plus an audio (with violinist Cammarano) of the Brahms Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1:
Alessandro Deljavan's Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Repertoire:
Preliminary Recital, Phase I
BACH Partita No. 5 in G Major, BWV 829
CHOPIN 12 Etudes, op. 25
Preliminary Recital, Phase II
MOZART Variations on Gluck’s "Unser dummer Pöbel meint", K. 455
SCHUMANN Fantasie in C Major, op. 17
SCHUBERT Variation on a Waltz by Diabelli, D. 718
SOLER Sonata in F-sharp Major, R. 90
SOLER Sonata in F Major, R. 89
MENDELSSOHN Variations sérieuses, op. 54
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, op. 57 (“Appassionata”)
DVOŘÁK Piano Quintet in A Major, op. 81
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major, K. 482
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, op. 15
◊ To see a slideshow of all of the competitors, with bios and links to our profiles of them, click here.