Singing with Raineri

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By Henry Shires

Twenty something pianist prodigy, virtuoso and impresario Alex Raineri at Port Phillip’s Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM)

What is it about middle age and/or becoming aware of our own impending mortality (my poor old broken heart is currently literally being held together by a Health Robinson-esque spring) that often makes us turn, at a relatively late stage in life, away from the more youthful forms of music to Classical and Opera.
(In my opinion the wine to rock and pop’s Cocoa Cola, which give you a quick predictable caffeine hit but always leave you wanting something more?) We never know what we are missing!

However, although almost the entire audience at Port Phillip’s grand Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) were, including myself, a sea of some combination of white and/or no hair. The star of the show, Alex Raineri, when he came on stage for all the world like some cheeky sprite, looks about eleven. Twelve at most.

I exaggerate of course, but since the first time I saw him play piano, in the much more intimate surrounds of Castemaine’s delightful Buda Gardens’ Jane Austen-esque Conservatory, he has shaved off his hipster-esque beard. Along with about five of his only twenty something years.

Not that his approach as a pianist in anyway staid. As my much more classically knowledgeable female companion for the night noted, he bounces on and off his piano stool more than any other piano player. Other than Jerry Lee Lewis!

But enough about his pelvic technique.

Was his piano playing of any good?

Well, even despite my nagging angina on the night, I found his performance to be prodigy, virtuoso AND impresario.

Accompanied by his consistent muse, the also young Soprano Tabatha McFadyen, his choices were eclectic. Including White Mass, by the less well known and under rated Russian Alexander Scriabin, as well as an excellent selection of pieces by good ol’ Strauss and Mendelssohn and of course, a piece by the always reliably enervating Rachmaninoff.

His confidence and aplomb are apparently of the highest order; he introduced the whole evening by mentioning in passing that one of his string players had become seriously ill at the last minute and that the whole program had to be rejigged at the eleventh hour!

While, as far as I could tell, from the totally captivated audience (not one snorer to be seen, or heard) he did not hit too many bum notes.

And as for his vocal companion Tabatha McFadyen. Well, I have never been one, in the past, for divas, operatic or otherwise. But Tabatha has single-handedly converted me to the classic and honourable tradition of failing in love with and adulating from afar, female opera singers.

It is her voice that really utterly captured me. When Tabatha McFadyen sings fortissimo, nothing else matters. Nothing else even exists. OMGGG – Oh My Good Golly Gosh! (Not sure if this one is going to catch on?)

Finally, it all got a bit too much at the rendition of Mahlar’s at Midnight. Particularly in the lyrics.

Can you imagine sitting there with heart pain listening to “at midnight I listened hard to the beating of my heart; one single pulse of agony flared up at midnight.” (Mahler’s At Midnight) However it was leavened, very much as in life – I hope at least – by plenty of joy.

Tabatha singing Mahler’s If You Love For Beauty, for instance.
“If you love for wealth oh do not love me! Love the mermaid, who has many limpid pearls!
If you love for love, oh yes, love me! Love me forever!”

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