American pianist Raffi Kasparian has an unusual reawakening in music.
At an early age, he learned to play the accordion. But at age 13, he rediscovered an old recording (a gift from his parents) of piano concertos by Polish-American piano icon Josef Hofmann and had a change of heart: He wanted to be a pianist.
“I actually decided to listen to it only because I was feeling sorry for it after many years of neglect,” he says. “I listened to the Tchaikovsky concerto and it caught me completely off guard and swept me away. My mother convinced me to take piano lessons. We bought a piano and I fell in love with the piano almost immediately. I haven’t touched an accordion since then.”
Kasparian has since performed solo in the Kennedy Center; on WQXR Radio in New York; Maryland public radio; on PBS Television; and in the Baltimore-Washington area in such venues as the Phillips Art Gallery, Anderson House, Lyceum, Catholic University, University of Maryland.
Married to Filipina Joycelyn T. Vasquez from Paoay, Ilocos Norte, Kasparian is all set for a piano recital with his 13-year-old son Roman, at the Northern Christian College Auditorium in Laoag, Ilocos Norte on July 14, 7:30 p.m.
Soul of piano
The program includes a piano transcription of Ilocano folk song “Pamulinawen”; Felipe Padilla de Leon’s “March of the Planters”; Francisco Buencamino Sr.’s “Hibik ng Diwa”; and “Soul’s Lament”; and on to selected pieces by Bach, Debussy, Ravel, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff; to be capped with Liszt’s “Reminiscences from ‘Norma.’”
One tells him that “Norma” is not a popular piece in the country although the Bellini aria “Casta Diva” is popular among opera lovers.
Kasparian points out the good quality of his concluding Liszt piece.
“The music is intensely emotional. Its many themes run a gamut of emotions. It’s not really important whether or not the opera is known. Liszt brings out the soul of the piano as few composers do, and creates a fully satisfying piano composition. That is the difference between a matter-of-fact piano transcription and great composers’ inspiration. The former leaves you wishing you could hear the real opera, while the latter makes you feel as if you had.”
The unusual routine of preparing a concert with his son suits him well.
“I am proud of how well my son plays, and am pleased to be able to work together with him,” says Kasparian. “It adds a bond to us in which we can often dispense with the usual father-son relationship and enjoy a more equal partnership. As my son grows older, I look forward to more and more of this kind of partnership—whether it continues in music or expands to other areas of common endeavor.
“Since Roman only practices 1¼ hours a day, the potential for competition over limited resources [we only have one piano] is negligible. My wife also plays, but only for personal enrichment.”
Roman was the featured soloist in a piano master class given by renowned pianist Brian Ganz before the Northern Virginia Music Teachers Association in 2009.
For Ganz, Roman played Schubert’s Bb Variations-Impromptu, which impressed the teacher.
“In preparing Roman’s performance [between lessons with Margarita Gramaticova],” says Kasparian, “I remember working with him on phrasing until he was actually playing the music more like an artist than a young boy.
“Brian Ganz was impressed with Roman’s playing and was able to talk about higher level concepts like imagery to help bring out Roman’s inner muse and inspiration.”
Good home life
As his son is still in the formative stage, he is careful about advising to fully get involved with music.
“He doesn’t think he wants to pursue music as a career,” says Kasparian. “He’s more interested in science (as I was at his age). I want him to understand the depth that classical music can have. I also want him to have the experience of being really good at something. But I would be happy whatever direction he pursues.”
Joycelyn Kasparian explains how she figures in a family with two musicians.
“I guess the best thing is to encourage them and be appreciative of their talent and the effort that they put into producing great music,” she says. “On the other hand, you have to be grateful for the gifts that God has given them on top of looking for opportunities for them to develop further. But to be able to harness and hone those talents, you have to create a good home life for them.”
The July 14 concert of pianists Raffi and Roman Kasparian is presented by the Silaw cultural group under Joycelyn Vasquez Kasparian, in association with various NGOs coordinated by Angelita V. Barbers and the Paoay Parish Council represented by Dr. Julito Catubay.
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