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Flavio's portrait
Flavio Villani
May 9, 2023
BLOG: Crossing Rachmaninoff, what it meant for me

Over 7 years ago I was invited to Italy to perform for the first time with an orchestra, and perform one of my favorite concertos of all time, Rachmaninoff Concerto no.2. My film director friend Rebecca Tansley asked me then if she could follow me in my travels and journey for its preparation, since she knew a bit my story - leaving home now 16 years ago, looking for my own path in music around a life that first brought me to find security in my own skin and sexuality in a beautifully bohemian life in Spain, mostly working in IT for a couple of years, and then brought me to look for time and relevance in my studies at the piano in NZ in the time after that, in a new life surrounded by music trial and errors and small challenges to build myself as a pianist.

As they say, there are plenty renditions of this concerto better than what you'll find in this Documentary, but it is a piece of history I'll always be proud of, because it got my family closer, it allowed for a slice of my overseas life to be shared in the walls of my family, in a way the walls of my past, which I've still been so scared of, to only find, actually, that friendly hands and eyes were still there ready to welcome me with no judgment. It allowed me to face fears and try, because success is not at the highest point of the mountain but at every new step, every learning done even when you've failed and stood up again before.

This is a small excerpt from a review I really loved some months ago:

"[...]Most films of this genre feature the lives of prodigies and other world class performers known for their ability to win competitions and outshine their peers. This is the story of a more ordinary man, talented enough to make it to the concert stage, but it focuses not on his superhuman proficiency but on the effort he has had to make to get there. You can find any number of world class musicians who can perform Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto in C-minor as well as or better than Flavio can, but this is more than anything the story of a man with the desire to succeed who is willing to make the commitment to put in the effort to make it happen, to make a concert-level pianist of himself.

So the story is not about an “ordinary” man, exactly - he’s too talented to be reduced to “ordinary.” But he serves as an example of the old saying that genius, talent, success is one-tenth inspiration and nine-tenths perspiration.

Much of the film is intensely personal. Flavio’s mother says he was a child who had secrets, who kept pretty much to himself. He is gay, and when he came out to his family, his father gave him two hundred euros to make his way in the world and told him not to come home again. Hence his decision to make his way to New Zealand.

This is not a gay coming-out story. That chapter is behind him when the film begins, as is whatever difficulty he had connecting with his father. When he returns in the film, a week before the upcoming concert, what you see is a soft-spoken, very loving young man being warmly embraced and welcomed home by his family - all of them, brother, mother and father. The goal of the filmmaker is not to present a tension-filled drama, but an affection-filled tale of a young man who sets his goals high, and then goes out and meets them. There is tension in the film, but it’s not found among the characters - there are no bad guys - but in the trial Flavio has set for himself, the quest for the answer to the nagging question, “Am I good enough?”[...]"

...that question still grabs me every single day, sometimes pushing me to challenge myself more and some other times making me doubt everything and stop there. It's a continuous game, though sometimes when the question becomes "enough for what?" then those barriers and impediments that I've created myself kinda crumble away. Enough for continuing diving in this beautiful research into the richness and vastity of music explorations, I guess that would be enough, enough to inspire, to be heard, to matter. We all want to matter. I just know I'll keep growing and research and maybe one day, probably in my last days, I'll know it's been enough.

Thank you Rebecca and her team for believing in me enough to risk so much to come to Italy. Thanks to the people that still find this story inspiring. I'm looking forward to playing this concerto again someday ❤️🎹.