The revered American pianist Garrick Ohlsson, master solo recitalist begins a national tour of Australia opening Musica Viva’s 2020 season. He will perform the music of Chopin which earned him global acclaim alongside the brilliant music of Beethoven, Prokofiev and Brahms.
Long regarded as one of the world’s foremost interpreters of Frédéric Chopin’s music, Ohlsson was introduced to Chopin’s music when, as a nine-year-old, he was driven into Manhattan to see the great Arthur Rubinstein perform a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall. ‘Rubinstein was feeding off the audience’s excitement and providing more excitement back to us,’ he says. ‘It was a life-changing experience.’
Chopin featured again in Ohlsson’s life in 1970 when, as a 22-year-old, he won the illustrious International Frédéric Chopin Piano Competition – the first and only American to ever do so. Since then, Ohlsson has established himself worldwide as a musician of magisterial prowess. A student of the late Claudio Arrau, he is noted for his masterly performances of the works of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, as well as the Romantic repertoire.
On this tour, Ohlsson will perform two different programs. The first opens with the engaging Sonata no 11 of Beethoven, followed by Prokofiev’s gripping first ‘War’ Sonata.
The second programme highlights the music of Brahms: the tumultuous Two Rhapsodies op 79 and the eloquent Seven Fantasias, op 116 contrasting with the dazzling effects and captivating cross-rhythms of the Variations on a Theme of Paganini, op 35, bk 2.
The second half of each program is all about Chopin, whose music has remained dear to Ohlsson’s heart. This relationship is a constant balancing act: ‘Chopin without a classical foundation, without clear structure, without balance and an understanding of what he’s doing musically, becomes all magic, perfume, smoke and mirrors,’ Ohlsson has claimed. Ohlsson is not even sure he and Chopin would actually get along. ‘He was a royalist, he liked money and the finer things in life. I’m more middle class.’ Ohlsson also points out their contrasting physiques. The composer was frail and consumptive, whereas, as the 6′ 4″ pianist who is famed for his great hand span puts it, ‘I’m a large event.’ Indeed, Ohlsson’s commanding presence is at odds with the delicacy and finesse for which he’s famous. In his hands, half a tonne of glossy black wood and gleaming metal becomes a time machine, allowing the music to speak to us with uncluttered immediacy.
Garrick Ohlsson will tour to Perth, Canberra, Newcastle, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.
PROGRAM 1 /Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne Weekday, Perth, Sydney Weekend
BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata no 11 in B flat major, op 22/PROKOFIEV Piano Sonata no 6 in A major, op 82/CHOPIN Impromptu no 2 in F-sharp major, op 36/CHOPIN Etudes, op 25 nos 5-10/CHOPIN Berceuse, op 57/CHOPIN Scherzo in C-sharp minor, op 39
PROGRAM 2 /Canberra, Melbourne Weekend, Newcastle, Sydney Weekday
BRAHMS Two rhapsodies, op 79/ BRAHMS Seven Fantasias, op 116/ BRAHMS Variations on a theme of Paganini, op 35 bk 2/CHOPIN Nocturne in B flat minor, op 9 no 1/CHOPIN Piano Sonata no 3 in B minor, op 58