Success in the arts is a miry thing, and getting there can be a daily walk through quicksand. Swiss pianist Olivier Cavé of Martigny has an entrepreneurial approach to his career that is not only business savvy, it shuns a commercial packaging of classical music that plays to the detriment of the product. Paradox?
Clad in a black leather jacket and jeans, the pianist strolls through the streets of Venice for the filming of a promotional video to launch his newest CD with Aeon. A prestigious line-up of musicologists underpins his Italian interpretation of one of the world’s best known German composers – Johann Sebastian Bach. In his album entitled, “Johann Sebastian Bach – Concerti, Cappricio & Aria – Nel Gusto Italiano”, Cavé records Bach transcriptions of works by Vivaldi and the Marcello brothers in the Italian style. He explains that Bach was obsessed with it – that it would permeate his life’s work. The project is uncommon, progressive – and historically relevant. And the video speaks to Cavé’s usual flair for all things excellent from its copious images and exclusive locations to the woodlined deck and leather seats of the water taxi where he interviews. Olivier Cavé has known he wanted to be a concert pianist from the day his mother led him by the hand to his first lesson. He was focused even as a child, a natural goal-setter. His career quickly blossomed into appearances at Gianadda Foundation, Tohhalle Zurich, La Scala, La Roque d’Anthéron, La Fenice. He would play with the Chamber Orchestras of Lausanne and Basel, and collaborate with the San Francisco and Dusseldorf Symphony Orchestras. Cavé’s philosophy is clear: he pairs himself with the extraordinary.
From whence the impulse? You have only to spend a few hours in his company to see that economics, business and the world of politics are never far from his mind. Uniquely well-rounded and urbane, it is no wonder that he was able to set a strategy and follow it from the young age of eight, when upon hearing a recording by Maria Tipo he declared his determination to study under her expertise. In 1995, Cavé traveled back to his roots – Naples – and made that happen. Half Italian on his mother’s side, the artist says that Naples was his coming of age – the place where he found himself. It was the beginning of a love affair with a style that has shaped his discography. And he has not deviated since.
Packaging a career in the arts can be challenging, with the most common strategy usually including a broad, comprehensive program of music and composers.
But Cavé finds that a watereddown approach takes away from an artist’s ability to internalize and subsequently convey a higher plane of interpretation. He has opted to specialize.
With a focus that is consistently straight-forward, he released his first album of sonatas for the keyboard by Domenico Scarlatti in 2008, and mapped out the strategic planning of his career: Italian music of the 17th and 18th centuries.
A second album would follow of sonatas by Muzio Clementi, the father of the pianoforte and composer who would open the door to modern piano; and a third with Bach and his transcriptions of the Venetian masters. One common denominator underpins the entire Italian project: excellence at any cost. And in this case, that translates into a contextual and historical interpretation that is shamelessly accurate and, for some, unabashedly shocking.
On the threshold of a high-profile international career, Olivier Cavé pushes forward. Well-versed in social networking, he connects to professionals in his field and forges a way to work with them. And while there is nothing conventional in his demeanor, the artist conveys a sense of old world courtesy that opens doors to quality collaboration. “You have to be your own PR,” explains Cavé. “The classical music landscape as we know it doesn’t allow pianists to be exclusively musical. You need a business edge, vision, perseverance – you need to connect.”
Parallel to the program, Cavé has teamed up with Italian conductor Rinaldo Alessandrini – with whom he debuted at the San Francisco Symphony in 2012 on a project of Mozart concertos for 2014. As a foremost interpreter of baroque music, Alessandrini brings his Italian panache, or ‘red-blooded’ approach, to the Viennese classical school.
In something of a return to the source, Olivier Cavé is present at the Menuhin Festival Gstaad this year, having given his first concert with the Camerata Lysy in 1991 under the direction of Yehudi Menuhin. On the program – Italian piano with a rare interpretation of sonatas by Giustini da Pistoia, Clementi, Scarlatti, and Bach concertos from his recent release.
Article by AE Wilde