Spellbound by Wizardry

Asher Fisch, Garrick Ohlsson
The West Australian

In visual terms, Garrick Ohlsson looks well equipped to tackle Brahms’ gigantic piano concertos. Built like a rugby fullback and with hands that know no fears, he steered a breathtakingly fine way through two of the toughest keyboard assignments in the concerto repertoire. There was not a hint of strain as Ohlsson confronted, and surmounted with astonishing ease, the sort of pianistic obstacle course that only the chosen few are able to negotiate. Here, the grandeur inherent in so much of the writing was wondrously apparent.

Throughout, Ohlsson took up an interpretative position at the emotional epicentre of the music. Tone, whether silken or stentorian, lithe or leonine, enabled the soloist to make even the most trite succession of notes memorable. This was a pianistic tour de force. Throughout, Ohlsson’s playing evoked every expressive nuance. Wild, sustained applause after Brahms’ Concerto in D minor eventually elicited an encore, a gently introverted account of a Brahms Intermezzo.

Afterwards, Ohlsson played Chopin’s Waltz in C sharp minor which came across as a pianistic mini-miracle, a gossamer-light offering that would surely have melted the iciest heart.

Musical magnificence in purely orchestral terms was memorably apparent as Asher Fisch, doing us the honour of conducting from memory, took his forces through one of the most meaningful accounts of Brahms’ Third I’ve heard in years. Throughout, one sensed a unanimity of intention on the part of both the conductor and orchestra. It brought Brahms’ Third Symphony to pulsing life. And in Brahms’ Fourth, with Fisch in command, and the WASO in peak form, we listening to a reading which oscillated between tenderness and high drama. The emotional turbulence that lies at the heart of so much of the symphony was dramatically evoked.

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