Friday, October 24, 2014

Christopher Falzone (1985-2014)

Christopher Falzone, the Richmond-bred piano prodigy who became an internationally celebrated virtuoso, died on Oct. 21 in Geneva, Switzerland. He was 29.

Falzone, who grew up in the suburbs of Richmond, won the Young Musicians Foundation Competition when he was 8 years old, and the following year performed in a televised concert as the soloist in the Grieg Piano Concerto with the Disney Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra. He went on to win numerous honors and perform internationally.

Joanne Kong, the Richmond pianist who taught Falzone from the age of 4 until his late teen years, said, “He was one of the most remarkably gifted young pianists with whom I’ve worked. What was most striking to me was his ability to communicate with an audience, and his ability to get to the essence of the music. That’s something you can’t teach.”

After graduating from Monacan High School in Chesterfield County, Falzone enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where his principal teachers were Leon Fleisher and Claude Frank. He graduated from Curtis in 2008. Fleisher said of Falzone, “[T]here is scarcely anything beyond his means and his musical awarenesses.”

In 2004, he was the recipient of a $15,000 Gilmore Young Artist Award. In 2009, he was a gold medalist in the fourth International Piano Competition in Memory of Emil Gilels at the Odessa National A. V. Nezhdanova Academy of Music in Ukraine and winner of the Martha Argerich Les Virtuoses du Future competition in Switzerland. In 2010, he won the Grand Prix International Piano Competition: XX-XXI Century in Orléans, France.

Falzone performed as a recitalist, chamber musician and soloist with many orchestras in the United States and Europe.

He appeared several times as a soloist with the Richmond Symphony, most recently in 2005, playing Mozart’s “Coronation” Concerto (No. 26).

He also was a composer and arranger, notably of solo-piano versions of piano concertos and chamber works.

Here is a video, posted in 2013, of Christopher Falzone performing his solo transcription of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3:

And a 2012 posting of his remarkable concert performance of Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Sonata (in F minor, Op. 57):

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POSTSCRIPT (Oct. 28): There is a dismaying array of conflicting views circulating online regarding the circumstances leading to the death of Christopher Falzone. None strike me as pertinent, except to those who were close to him; and the discussion is taking a voyeuristic turn that does no service to his artistic legacy. He was a brilliant pianist with extraordinary musical sensibility. He died too soon. Enough said.