He was on to every connection, no matter how subtle, with all thematic threads illuminated with a sense of sympathy and delightRachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with the San Diego Symphony10 May 2023
“The “Rach 3,” as it has come to be known, is a warhorse among warhorses, satisfying audiences and challenging aspiring pianists since its premiere in 1909. This past weekend, Garrick Ohlsson tackled it with the San Diego Symphony under the baton of Robert Spano at the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, and turned in performances that helped to both amplify the lore and mystique of the concerto and to further confirm Ohlsson’s reputation as an intelligent and fearsome pianist.
Part of the magic of this work is its dual nature as a rhapsodic, virtuoso improvisation that yet manages to adhere to a sensible, perceptible structural layout. Rachmaninoff’s knack for varying melodies over the course of the concerto allows the soloist to appear as a master improvisor, while tethering the thrilling technical difficulty of the piece to a clear architecture … provided, of course, the soloist understands the piece as well as Ohlsson does. He was on to every connection, no matter how subtle, with all thematic threads illuminated with a sense of sympathy and delight, from the myriad reconfigurations of the famous opening melody to the lyrical secondary gesture that returns like a sad recollection in the second movement Intermezzo.”