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Daniel Varsano (Piano)

Born: April 7, 1954 - Casablanca, Morocco
Died: March 9, 1988 - Paris, France

The French pianist, Daniel Varsano, was attracted very early by music, and especially the piano and harpsichord. In 1963, he enrolled at the Académie Marguerite Long. In 1969, he left for the USA and settled in Los Angeles. In 1973, he graduated in concert and musicology at the University of Southern California. He then travelled many times between France and America. In Paris from 1972 to 1976, he studied with both with Pierre Sancan and Magda Tagliaferro at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique. In the USA, he studied with Rosalyn Tureck; in France with Magda Tagliaferro and Pierre Sancan.

Daniel Varsano made his concert debut in Paris in 1974. At that time, the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) by J.S. Bach and the Diabelli Variations by L.v. Beethoven were his favourites. About the Goldberg Variations, the American journalist Marcia Menter says: "For Daniel Varsano, the Goldberg Variations witness at the same time absolutely everyday and greatness of God, which is yet another example of the dual complex form the basis for any work of Bach. French blood mingled with Russian, a fascinating combination of rationality and romanticism, this young man seems to play with a disconcerting ease. But just talking to him to understand how deeply he husked and each note carefully. At 27 years of age, Varsano said at the Maître de chapelle: "We always wondered if the work of Bach is only reserved for the piano, he says. But this question comes from the 19th century. The musicians of this time were concerned about the "color" of the music while Bach was not at all. If it was, I do not think he would have spent his life changes on or to rewrite their works for different instruments. We know that, thanks to his correspondence, he has served as an intermediary to a sale of piano at the Polish Count Branitsky and "Ricercar" from The Musical Offering were written for the piano!" "In fact", he continues, "the most important point is that this music is entirely based on the concept of structure. It is like architecture: if you change the color of the stones of a church , going from beige to light gray, you will not change its deep structure and its beauty as it is rooted. In fact, I dare say that Bach's music can be played on any instrument."

Daniel Varsano then recorded for CBS a double album in which the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) and Diabelli Variations were coupled. Back across the Atlantic, he then plunged into an entirely different world, that of Erik Satie, that has been forwarded to him by Magda Tagliaferro and where he will fully blossom. He recorded in 1980, also for CBS, an album dedicated to Gnossiennes, Gymnopédies and other piano pieces by the French composer, receiving the Grand Prix du Disque. In the USA, where Satie was still a joke (the composer Virgil Thomson who had said that his music readily produced the desired effect for the washing dishes), the album was very well received: "Daniel Varsano, newcomer to the already long list of Satie performers has the exact sensitivity that suits his music, Allen Hughes wrote in The New York Times."He does not make it something other than what it is, but never becomes indifference. His touch and tempo are very sensitive but not soft and he does not compromise easily, despite the incongruity of some securities." This time, Satie is to go and this recording is essential for those who love the charm and quizzical smiles montmartrois composer.

Daniel Varsano made his American debut recital in February 1981 at the Cultural Center New York's 92nd Street Y, playing the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988). Peter G. Davis wrote in The New York Times: "In broad terms, Mr. Varsano's approach to this mighty score was contained to the point of asceticism. There were no emotional peaks and valleys, little attempt at cumulative intensification and even less indulgence in instrumental brilliance for its own sake. Each variation was viewed as a separate entity, played with Olympian detachment, unruffled serenity and painstaking care to clarify contrapuntal textures. Varsano made his major expressive points with microscopic gradations of dynamics, and in doing so he showed that his finger control is extraordinarily developed. In the canonic variations, for example, he invariably played the first voice loudly and the answering voice softly, reversing the procedure in the repetitions. Although carried out with remarkable discipline, the idea eventually turned into an annoying mannerism, often totally inappropriate to the musical context. On the whole, this was a thoughtful but extremely flat interpretation of Bach. Mr. Varsano is obviously a talented pianist who perhaps may make a more convincing impression in a different repertory."

Daniel Varsano made then several tours to South Africa, Indonesia, Japan. Back in France, he co-operated with Magda Tagliaferro, who was over eighty years, and recorded with her an album dedicated to Gabriel Fauré where both play the suite for four hands Dolly, the Ballade in the version with two pianos and a few other solo pieces. The album received the Grand Prix du Disque.

Alongside his career as a classical pianist, Daniel Varsano tried to play synthesizer in the evening of Paris 80 years. His discreet xompanion was Thierry Le Luron, with whom he spent all the holidays, and is credited with authorship of the famous Chéri, chéri of the young comedian. Daniel Varsano died of AIDS in Paris a year after Le Luron, at the age of 33. He is buried in Montparnasse Cemetery.

Source: French Wikipédia Website, English translation by Aryeh Oron (August 2009); Supplements from other sources
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (August 2009)

Daniel Varsano: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works

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Daniel Varsano (Wikipédia) [French]

 

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