Garrick Ohlsson

Garrick Ohlsson
Ruch Muzyczny Journal, RM #7

By Kacper Miklaszewski

Translated by Ania Marchwinska

Garrick Ohlsson’s recital on Thursday, February 25th turned out to be the highlight of the weeklong celebration. I have not heard him play with such concentration, charisma and depth since his performance during the Chopin Competition in 1970. To say more- Ohlsson matured like the best quality wine: he enchants the listener with perfection (please treat this term as a synonym of perfection, fullness, and completeness) in his approach to the sound quality of the music written by the composer and a very particular treatment of musical time, an almost pious concentration in listening to every note in both- grand and laconically short forms.

No- Ohlsson became an intriguing musical narrator, master of romantic epic form, displaying in every piece all of the conventional and invented by Chopin rhetorical figures. He even leans toward a program interpretation of the message in the mystical piece- the f-minor Fantasy.

Ohlsson’s interpretations are modern throughout. The pianist does not shy from using the full dynamic range of a modern Steinway, is not afraid of forte and fills the hall like an orchestra. However he also charms the listener with dynamic differences, he is the master of clear piano; he can play “from a distance” and “con anima”.

In Preludes Op. 28 he discovered Chopin as a visionary, the leader of the avant-garde of his time (an incredible interpretation of the a-minor prelude, with the dissonant accompaniment played without the use of pedal; the preludes: e-minor, f-minor, c-minor and d-minor were equally new and revealing).

The Ballade in A flat major in his interpretation changed from a collection of simple Italian in origin songs into a profound, full of reflection drama. The contrasting Nocturnes Op. 27  - the first in c-sharp minor once more very modern in the approach to harmony, while the second in D-flat major charmed everyone by the innocent simplicity of cantilena.

The encores, announced in beautiful Polish, completed the enchanting atmosphere.  The Mazurka Op. 7 no 2 in a-minor became a fascinating short story, the Waltzes – a merry or dreamy fest. A masterful rendition of the Etude Op. 10 no 4 in c-sharp minor, worthy of a comparison to the best recordings by Richter or Rubinstein, puts Ohlsson among the greatest masters of contemporary piano playing.