Ohlsson’s extraordinary grasp of musical architecture was immediately apparent in Schubert’s popular Impromptu in C minor, where his elegant control of musical line was beautifully complemented by a subtle sense of colour in both the inner and outer parts.Musica Viva in Australia reviews05 Jun 2023
“Last visiting on the cusp of COVID, American pianist Garrick Ohlsson has made a welcome return to Melbourne, confirming his undeniable artistic prowess in a program that radiated conviction and finesse.
Ohlsson’s extraordinary grasp of musical architecture was immediately apparent in Schubert’s popular Impromptu in C minor, where his elegant control of musical line was beautifully complemented by a subtle sense of colour in both the inner and outer parts.
A surefooted sense of musical direction also pervaded an authoritative account of Liszt’s titanic Sonata in B minor, in which Ohlsson projected a masterful sense of musical background and foreground. Unafraid to unleash the sonata’s dramatic vehemence, Ohlsson was also capable of moments of heart-stopping tenderness, not least at the work’s end.”
“Ohlsson’s phrasing from the outset was impressive, creating a perfect musical balance and symmetry, with some marvellous pianissimo. With both hands playing entirely different chords and notes, he created the most wonderful soundscape, managing the harmonics with great sensitivity. The final whisper-light notes before the heavier last notes were mesmerising.”
“Ohlsson’s Schubert shimmered with transparent textures and some interesting and rather original highlighting of inner lines in places.
The B minor sonata is arguably the greatest work of Franz Liszt. This extraordinary composition – written without a break in its nearly half an hour duration – is a tour de force that demands enormous technical and musical mastery. Ohlsson delivered a performance that displayed both and offered a laser navigation of its complex structure and forms within the larger construction. This was a reading of pathos and noblesse. At once spacious, epic, penetrating, intimate and demonstrating deep insight, one would struggle to hear it played better. This sort of piece is ideally suited to his build: almost two metres tall and with long arms and a hand that reportedly spans an interval of a 12th. Ohlsson drew out a truly orchestral range of colours and a fortissimo that raised the roof without ever becoming brash.”
“The one word that occurred to me over and over during Garrick Ohlsson’s piano recital tonight was control.
His technique is so ingrained and his terraced dynamics so nuanced, right across the spectrum from very soft to very loud, he retains his control throughout a long and taxing work like Franz Liszt’s 30-minute Piano Sonata.”
“A recital with Ohlsson is always like a conversation with a wise and kind master – gentle, despite his towering stature.”
“His hands have a life of their own; the beauty of the music – impeccably played, placed, and timed – flows from somewhere so deeply within him that it cannot be thought, only conveyed.”
“Well, the magic was back in the air when the 75-year-old Ohlsson sat down at the Steinway for the first of two programs. At its centre was a performance of Franz Liszt’s challenging Piano Sonata in B minor, a 30-minute work which befits the cliche “journey”, although in some respects it’s more like a Himalayan climb and descent, hypnotic and full of wonder in the giant hands of one of our greatest living pianists.
Tall and built like a bear – the concert grand seems to shrink when he sits down to play – Ohlsson has a wonderful and subtle touch. His left hand has a massive 12 note reach and the right stretches to 11 effortlessly. They seem to have a fluid life of their own, from the crashing bass chords to the vertiginous, rippling trills at the top of the keyboard.
After the majestic ascent to the peak Ohlsson negotiated the “dead zone” of this Everest of the canon with beautiful phrasing and what appeared to be – but I’m sure wasn’t – casual aplomb.”