...nobility is exactly what came to mind on Sunday night when listening to Ohlsson’s first ever Australian piano recital.Musica Viva Australia reviews17 Feb 2020
“When it comes to pianists, it’s often illuminating to trace pedagogical lineages. American pianist Garrick Ohlsson can trace his back to Franz Liszt, via one of Ohlsson’s teachers, the great Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau, and Arrau’s teacher, Liszt student Martin Krause.
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.”
“A big man with a huge repertoire carried around in his head, Ohlsson presented a demanding recital of works by Brahms and Chopin, earning a standing ovation and the call for two encores, all played from memory.
Despite his size his touch has an uncommon elegance, but with such extraordinary control he can command every mood and nuance from his instrument effortlessly.
From the very first notes of Brahms’ “Two Rhapsodies”, op. 79, Ohlsson’s assured playing put the large audience in no doubt that this was to be a stylish concert of consummate pianism. He achieved exceptional definition and clarity of tone, even when, typical of Brahms’ writing, the bass was rumbling away down in the piano’s lowest register.”
“Ohlsson’s performance of Beethoven’s Sonata in B flat, Opus 22 at the start of the concert had emphasised lightness, avoiding anything over-dramatic in favour of classic grace. Some pianists play Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 6 in A minor, Opus 82, as though leaping heroically through burning cities. By contrast, Ohlsson closed the first half with selfless exposition of this work’s musical purpose, bringing out classic coherence and logic amid the grotesquery of the outer movements.”
“Garrick Ohlsson is a giant of the keyboard, but it is not his solid, towering physique that makes him so; rather an unerring sureness in his playing that imparts a sense of structure and balance to everything he performs.
While allowing for some improvisatory flexibility, Ohlsson took a direct approach with Beethoven’s early B-flat major Sonata, Op. 22, treating it in a fairly witty fashion.
Ohlsson gave Prokofiev’s brutalist Piano Sonata No. 6 in A major, Op. 82, a vivid performance, rising to the extreme physical demands of the score with amazing economy of motion, and seeming barely to raise a sweat. A supreme colourist, Ohlsson gave the outer movements much-needed light and shade, while making the third movement’s surreal waltz an almost psychedelic experience.”
“So relaxed and economical is Garrick Ohlsson’s performance style that the listener might be lulled into absorbing his music in a comfortable frame of mind, until the moment when the pianist’s mastery twists the familiar phrases into something quite provocative.
The joy of live performance is that the experience is multi-layered: one hears the personal interpretation of the soloist, but there are also memories that chime in – and these are as powerful as the audible melodies.
I had admired Ohlsson’s rendering of the contrasting program of works by Brahms and Chopin, but his second encore, The “Revolutionary” Etude Op. 10 No.12 ambushed me with the embodiment of the raw anguish of Chopin at 21 when he heard of the Russian attack on Warsaw and wrote the work. Simultaneously, I was transported back to a music room in a North Coast convent where I stood at the age of 17 listening to my friend and musical rival as he played The “Revolutionary” and the flood-battered upright piano rocked and shook with the passion of the music.
It was an electric connection from Ohlsson that abruptly removed the tarnish of the working day, bathing the senses in the brightness of youth translated into music.”
“American pianist Garrick Ohlsson is a great artist with a huge reputation, formidable stature and a reach across keyboard that brings the grand piano back to scale. He’s also comfortable in his own skin. “They say I look very relaxed when I’m playing, but I’m pretty strong,” he told the Perth Concert Hall audience on Sunday night.
That strength and composure brought solo piano to a big audience with effortless grace; confidence building assurance and contentment.”
The West Australian
“Garrick Ohlsson attracted international attention 50 years ago as the 1970 winner of Warsaw’s Chopin International Piano Competition. As he gently led the melody of Chopin’s Impromptu No. 2 in F-sharp major, Opus 36, from mellowness to melancholy in his first Musica Viva recital on Saturday, it was clear Chopin remains a sounding board for his musical soul.
The selection of six studies (5 – 10) from that composer’s Opus 25 that followed in the all-Chopin second half, began with number 5 in E minor, its quietly snapped rhythms like a haunting guitar. The soulful duet of number 7 between an imagined cello and violin became the expressive pivot point of the concert. After delicate filigree in Chopin’s Berceuse, Opus 57, Ohlsson finished with that composer’s Scherzo in C sharp minor, Opus 39, playing its central chorale theme with noble reserve, ornamented with cascades of light.”
“American pianist Garrick Ohlsson’s electrifying second Sydney recital for Music Viva was, in some ways, the story of the Romantic piano.
Performing on a Steinway concert ‘grand,’ the gentle giant held his audience spellbound with a dazzling display of virtuosic playing. Ohlsson’s instinct for the music, technical brilliance and intellect, facilitated by his physique, make a rare combination. ”