Chamber: Sunday, June 2, 2:45 p.m.
in his semifinal chamber round
Alesandro Deljavan is, in addition to his skills as a solo pianist, an accomplished chamber musician, and it certainly showed in his first semifinal showing. His performance of the Dvořák Quintet was a joy from beginning to end. In an interview with us, he summed it up perfectly:
“Chamber music is a whole world adjacent to the solo world...I know many wonderful pianists who have a problem hearing what’s happening—and in a collaborative recital, that can’t work.”
Really, I could end this review right there.
Quartet in his semifinal chamber round
Deljavan was in constant contact with the members of the Brentano String Quartet and it was obvious that they were reveling in the performance as well. He was right with them at every ritard and gave them all the space they wanted. He always knew what was important in his part, and sometimes it was only what was in his right hand, so he kept the left hand subdued. In the Dumka, Deljavan made the tricky off-beats so much easier for the strings that the first violinist didn’t need to conduct with his body. The scherzo was really fast—probably Deljavan’s tempo—but the quartet kept up and it was quite exciting.
The whole performance was full of a myriad of details that Deljavan played with loving attention. There is still some concern about his extra musical tics, such as singing along audibly and his series of facial grimaces, but all of that was soon forgotten when he so beautifully accompanied the opening cello solo and continued to amaze thereafter. This reading of the Dvořák should raise his chances considerably.
Recital: Tuesday, June 4, 2:45 p.m.
Alessandro Deljavan is, as has been said before, the most eccentric pianist in the competition. Some performances were strange while others, like his exemplary performance of the Dvořák Piano Quintet, were marvelous. His programs have been curious as well: thoughtful works, requiring a sure technique but with no big showpiece. His last semifinalist performance was no exception: a Baroque opener, some Mendelssohn and a popular Beethoven sonata.
He opened with two sonatas by a relatively unknown composer. The program merely read “Soler,” but this is Antonio Francisco Javier José Soler Ramos, more commonly known as Padre Soler. He straddled the Baroque and early classical periods and is mostly known for keyboard works. If these two sonatas are any indication, his music is well-constructed but full of quirky surprises. As with his Bach, Deljavan delivered a clear and precise performance that eschewed the use of the sustaining pedal.
Mendelssohn’s Variations sérieuses, op. 54, followed. Deljavan grouped some of the variations as the composer intended and others he grouped himself. His performance was clean and very much in the style of the composer, who usually writes a constant stream of musical motion.
I expected that we would finally get some humor in his a performance of Theofanidis’ Birichino, considering how demonstrative he was in Bach. Alas, such was not to be the case. Far from being rascally, Deljavan sent his birichino (mischievous child) to the principal’s office, had him paddled and forced to write “I will not misbehave” 100 times on the chalkboard.
Beethoven’s Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, op. 57 (“Appassionata”), is one of his most well-known pieces and a favorite of pianists, both professional and amateur. The most surprising aspect of his performance was all of the wrong notes. His wild approach came with some risk and, today at least, his aim was off. Much of it was way too loud and blurred by the overuse of the sustaining pedal. Although the sonata wasn’t called “Appassionata” in the composer’s lifetime, Deljavan’s performance certainly took that moniker to its inevitable extreme.
◊ Our profile of Alessandro Deljavan, 26, Italy
◊ You can see quick links to the reviews of the other semifinalists here