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Renowned pianist Flavio Varani headlines Cultural Arts benefit

By Garrett Mitchell, Staff Reporter
Published on Saturday, September 19, 2015

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Flavio Varani, world renown pianist, has made Simpsonville his home when not touring.
 

Garrett Mitchell

Flavio Varani, world renown pianist, has made Simpsonville his home when not touring.

 

There are those who create and those who play. When those talents are combined, the result can be beautiful.

Flavio Varani, a world-renowned classical pianist, who resides in Simpsonville, is both.

Varani, in Japan for a two-month concert tour as a soloist, chamber musician and teacher, will bring his music to Greer for a Dec. 5 performance at 7:30 p.m. at the J. Harley Bonds Center. It will serve as the Greer Cultural Arts fundraiser with a reception with Varani after the performance.

The grandson of Italian immigrants, Varani was born and reared in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

His first piano was a present from his mother, at the age of seven. It wasn't the gift he was expecting.

"For two years I had asked for a truck that had 16 wheels. I thought, mother bought the truck finally, to play with. I get home and there's this upright piano with a Santa Claus on top," Varani said with a laugh. It was July.

“I looked at (the piano) and asked, ‘what is that for?’ She said, ‘You are going to start having lessons,’” Varani said

It didn’t take long for Varani's family to realize Flavio’s gift.

"The family would always gather on Sundays, mother would do the food, and the children, my brother and I, we would entertain the entire family," he said. “So grandmother would cry, embrace, kiss, you know, those things that entire families do, and it was very pleasant to me.”

Varani soon found himself playing on local Brazilian radio and television programs. He played his first concert with the Brazilian National Symphony Orchestra at the age of eight.

The young Varani quickly became known throughout Brazil, and at age 13 he was awarded a scholarship by the French government to study under the legendary Magda Tagliaferro.

Living in Paris for seven years, Varani began to tour across Europe and Russia. At the age of 18 he won first prize at the Chopin International Competition in Majorca, Spain.

Varani realized, however, that he needed to further his musical education outside of Europe. Apprehensive, he traveled to New York in an attempt to earn a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music, not sure if he would be accepted, despite his international success.

"I thought, to go back to Brazil and be a classical musician, I have no future," Varani said. "So I will do something. I will make a longer trip home. I stopped in New York and I go to Juilliard. They are the top people in the United States and in the world. If they encourage me I continue, and if not, I just go home and change."

Varani was awarded the scholarship.

Upon graduating from Juilliard, Varani was hired as head of the piano department and artist in residence at Oakland University in Detroit. "I went. No pressure. I played, they liked, and they asked for my philosophy of teaching,” Varani said.

“God knows what I answered, but I was offered the job," he said with a chuckle.

While at Oakland University, Varani was decorated with numerous awards. His CD of Heitor Villa-Lobos of piano music was designated “Outstanding Classical Recording of 1999” by the Detroit Music Foundation.

Varani received the “Order of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres” and was Knighted at the Institute de France in 2012.

The lure of performing called Varani away from the classroom and back into touring. Eventually, he found himself living in Miami Beach, a place that he admittedly didn't care for, but that ultimately served as his gateway to the Upstate.

"I was on my way to Detroit from Miami, and I have a former pupil who lives in our region that asked me to stop for a visit," Varani said. "They took me to Greer and Greenville while I was here."

Varani decided he needed a change of scenery and returned to the Upstate to search out properties with older buildings. He settled on a loft on the second floor of an old cotton mill in Simpsonville. It was there that Varani discovered another passion, architecture.

"I get there and this building is 1906, a real cotton mill, and it was the evening so the windows were lit," he said. "You had the impression that it was a boat in the night. I said I would love living here."

Varani designed the interior of his new home and is entertaining the idea of taking architecture classes at Clemson University.

Music, for Varani, is ever changing. "What we do is subjective," he said. "You cannot say this is right and this is wrong. There is a certain truth in music. The truth comes from tradition, information, geography, history … "

Pouring through memories he found one more. "Finally, I got my truck for Christmas," Varani said with grin.

Want to go?

Flavio Varani, a world-renowned classical pianist

• Greer Cultural Arts Council Benefit

• Saturday, Dec. 5, 7:30 p.m.

• $30 includes reception with the artist after the show.

• Information: Call 864-848-5383 or email here.

 

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