Review: Garrick Ohlsson (Musica Viva Australia, Perth Festival)
A flawless recital by one of the giants of the piano.
by Will Yeoman
It’s a form of nobility. And nobility is exactly what came to mind on Sunday night when listening to Ohlsson’s first ever Australian piano recital for Musica Viva, presented in association with Perth Festival.
Nobility, and a richness of tone, which like Arrau’s could be described as orchestral, but deployed with such powerful rhetorical gestures that every paragraph seemed simultaneously carved from granite and spun from silk.
There was also humour, which came through especially in an electrifying performance of Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No 6 in A Major, Opus 82, but was there throughout in Ohlsson’s deferential yet warm stage demeanour.
Each was a masterclass in what it means to be utterly fluent in a musical idiom. The Scherzo and Étude No 10 were especially fine, Ohlsson so beautifully holding in tension Chopin’s more explosive, technically challenging outbursts with the composer’s more lyrical utterances.
For me, however, the highlight was Chopin’s nocturne-like Étude No 7 in C Sharp minor, with its spotlight on the left hand and that magnificent arabesque that sweeps down to the piano’s darkest regions.
Here, every aspect of Ohlsson’s artistry was on display: nobility, yes; but in the exquisite phrasing and balance between voices something that was less poetry, more philosophy.