Teenage Pianists to Wow Spartanburg Audience

July 11, 2016 at 11:01 am

Two of Western North Carolina’s most celebrated and gifted young pianists — Christopher Tavernier, 15, and Nolan Anthony, 16 — will present a concert of some of history’s most familiar and dramatic solos Aug. 27, 7-9 p.m. at Chapman Cultural Center. Their alternating solos – dueling pianos – will include works by Bach, Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, and Schumann.

In the latter half of the program, they will be accompanied by other classical musicians to present Camille Saint-Saëns’ charming Carnival of the Animals, a story that follows the dream of a boy asleep in the American Museum of Natural History. This will be a musical suite of 14 movements by the French Romantic composer in 1886. The work was written for private performance by an ad hoc ensemble of two pianos and other instruments and lasts around 25 minutes. Narration of the humorous verses will be by Ron Whittemore, professional voice-over talent and international singer.

This “4th Annual World Masterwork Series” is being presented by the non-profit agency The Music Foundation of Western North Carolina and Freeburg & Perzina Pianos of Asheville. The concert’s emcee will be Michael Cogdill, news anchor and personality for WYFF-TV News 4 of Greenville. Tickets are $8-10 and can be purchased at ChapmanCulturalCenter.org or by calling 864.542.ARTS.

“This is one of the most amazing and dramatic piano concerts to be seen and heard anywhere,” Tavernier’s teacher John Cobb said. “I’ve played professionally with Christopher and I know Nolan by reputation, and I can tell you their talent will take your breath away. It is rare to see such talent in teenagers. And it certainly helps that they have great stage presence. This is one of those concerts where people sit back and just drop their jaws in awe.”

In addition to performing this concert in Spartanburg, they will also perform in Asheville Saturday, Sept. 3, at the Diana Wortham Theatre. That will be a benefit for breast cancer.

“People make a big deal out of us playing together,” Tavernier said. “They get a kick out of seeing two young guys playing flashy keyboard pieces. Actually, it is a lot of fun and it is a lot of work, but it’s what we like to do. We purposely choose pieces that have a lot of dramatic hand movements. People actually ask the box office for certain seats so they can see our hands.”

Tavernier made his orchestral debut with the Tar River Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of 13, performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 on the opening concert of the Orchestra’s Fall 2013 Season at the Dunn Center for the Performing Arts in Rocky Mount, NC. He began his piano studies at the age of six, and now at 15 he has won several competitions, including the 2012 Appalachian Classical Music Association’s Young Artist’s Competition in Johnson City, TN, and in 2014 the junior division of the Charlotte Symphony’s Concerto Competition, and the Concerto Competition of the Symphony Orchestra of Augusta, GA. Additionally, he placed second in the National Elizabeth Harper Vaughn Concerto Competition in Kingsport, TN.

Tavernier was the youngest performer in the history of the competition, which admits contestants up to the age of 25. He performed Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. His repertoire includes concertos by Bach, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Prokofiev. He maintains a broad solo repertoire, including many works by his favorite composer, Franz Liszt. In addition, he has in his repertoire Liszt’s two operatic paraphrases for two pianos. Tavernier’s pianistic lineage and training extends from Liszt through his teacher, John Cobb, who studied with Claudio Arrau, and whose teacher was a pupil of Franz Liszt. For three seasons Tavernier and Cobb have played at fundraising concerts to benefit Asheville’s Mission Foundation “Ladies Night Out,” a program that supports the early detection of breast cancer. In 2014, he performed, on both piano and harpsichord, the Bach Triple Concerto, BWV 1044, with the Rutherford Chamber Consort, a professional chamber music ensemble headquartered in Western North Carolina. He has been featured on ABC affiliate television station WLOS, and has performed on Carolina Live NPR radio and WCQS, Asheville, NC. He is the first International Perzina Artist in the company’s 144 year history.

Anthony is the other musical prodigy of the dynamic duo. Now 16, the Fletcher, NC, native has been the organist at Trinity United Methodist Church in West Asheville for two years. This past March, Anthony performed with the Carolina Youth Symphony at Carnegie Hall in New York City, playing the viola and piano. And, in February, he played a 30-minute recital at St. James Episcopal Church in Hendersonville, pieces by Leon Boëllmann, Felix Mendelssohn, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and the Johann Sebastian Bach/Antonio Vivaldi Concerto in A Minor on the church’s famed Harrison and Harrison pipe organ.

Some of Anthony’s talent can probably be traced to his parents. Jim Anthony is a jazz saxophonist and has played at Trinity over the years as part of the Christmas jazz concert, and he plays for the Asheville Jazz Orchestra. His mother Debra Anthony is an accomplished violinist who teaches and plays with Asheville Symphony. In all likelihood Anthony will pursue a career in music at college, possibly going into choral music to become a music director and not solely an organist and accompanist.

“Right now, I’m mostly focused on piano and organ,” Anthony said. “But who knows what I’ll do in the future. I think I’ll stick with classical music, but in our home, we had all sorts of music. Doing these concerts with all the fancy handwork is a great way to entertain other people and at the same time get exposure. I’m glad they like the novelty of the concert, but I really hope they listen to the music. It is some of the best music ever written.”

The Spectacular Two-Piano Fantasy! By Christopher Tavernier & Nolan Anthony”  will begin with them playing alternately J.S. Bach’s Courante and Gigue from French Suite No. 5 in G Major, BWV 816; Frederic Chopin’s  Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48, No. 1  and Grande Valse Brillante, Op. 34, No. 1; Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 7, Op. 83, III. Precipitato; Robert Schumann’s  Papillons, Op. 2; Franz Liszt’s Transcendental Etude No. 8 (Wild Hunt), Consolation No. 3 and Hungarian Rhapsody in F minor, No. 14; and Claude Debussy’s  Bruyères (Prelude)  and Reflections in the Water.

After a brief intermission, the audience can let its imagination soar with Camille Saint-Saëns’ charming Carnival of the Animals.  The story follows the dream of a boy, asleep in the American Museum of Natural History.  Wild and strange creatures emerge, and hilarious antics ensue.  The 14 entertaining pieces will be played by Tavernier and Anthony on two pianos with an assortment of string, woodwind and percussion instruments, performed by the Masterwork Chamber Players. Also featured is a narration of the humorous verses by Ogden Nash and Bruce Adolphe, spoken by Whittemore.

“This is concert is designed to wow both the seasoned classical music lover, as well as those people who just like the fancy handwork,” Keith Freeburg, founder of The Music Foundation of Western North Carolina, said. “These young men are such great talents, and we want to give them all the exposure that we can. At the same time, we want to provide wonderful music to the public. And to top it all off, all of the proceeds go to a worthy cause. We’re not in it for the money. We do it for the love of these young men and their music.”

For more information, please call (828) 707-2604.