I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I was just crazy about playing the piano and making music.Interview: Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival04 Mar 2018
While waiting for his fight at La Guardia airport, renowned pianist, Garrick Ohlsson, called for the pre-arranged interview. The topic of his non-stop global travel came up and Mr. Ohlsson said, “Any place I am is fine, but the traveling (to get there) is wretched these days.”
Mr. Ohlsson is affable and has a rich laugh. Inextricably linked to Chopin as a result of winning first prize at the Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1970 and a master of many composers’ work, when asked if there is one composer or piece that makes his soul soar, Ohlsson replied, “There are several actually. Certainly, Chopin is one of them. If I knew I was dying in 25 minutes and I’m giving my last concert, it would be Chopin’s Barcarolle. I don’t know why, but it does make my soul soar, as many pieces do.
“The Shubert Sonata I’m playing on Amelia Island. There is nothing more beautiful or greater in the whole musical literature than that. Life is too short not to play that a lot!
“I’m particularly pleased to be playing Scriabin Etude because Scriabin is recognized as a great composer, but he’s relatively little heard. It’s a matter of keep opening people’s eyes and ears to him and usually they love it.”
When asked if not the piano, what would his career path be, Ohlsson philosophically responded, “If it were different, it would all be different.”
However, he explained that in high school he was interested in mathematics and astronomy and had a “modest gift in those areas, but nothing like my musical talent. There was never a choice.”
And that is fortunate for the global musical community that has bestowed many accolades and prestigious awards on Mr. Ohlsson, who understands his auspicious position on the world stage. There are extraordinarily talented people around all of the time, he notes. Yet there is always the “uncomfortable fact of art and the business of art, which have historically coexisted uneasily.” This suggests that despite a wealth of musical talent, other factors become relevant when determining who becomes a shining star.
For young musicians taking their first steps on the path, Ohlsson has some common sense advice. “When kids are gifted musicians there are lots of little fences to jump. To win the Chopin prize is a really hard mountain to jump over and if you, your parents and your environment are rational, you’ll find out if you have what it takes each step along the way. In other words, ‘should you go forward’?”
For Garrick Ohlsson, the answer was, “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I was just crazy about playing the piano and making music.”
Mr. Ohlsson will give a recital at the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival on March 4. Check their Facebook event for more information.