Garrick Ohlsson Summons Stamina at Carnegie Hall

Tranquil Islands in Passionate Seas12 Feb 2014

In both Beethoven’s Sonata No. 30 (Op. 109) and Schubert’s “Wanderer” Fantasy, quiet moments of resignation and introspection emerge suddenly from tempestuous thickets. In his admirable recital at Carnegie Hall on Sunday afternoon, the pianist Garrick Ohlsson rendered these elements with striking contrast.

He opened with the sonata, part of the final triptych Beethoven wrote while completely deaf. Mozart and Haydn inspired Beethoven’s early sonatas, but his final works in the genre break from tradition with bold new ideas and unexpected forms and harmonic shifts.

Mr. Ohlsson brought a nobility and tenderness to his interpretation, beautifully juxtaposing the contemplative characteristics with outbursts of raw emotion. His performance of the Schubert also proved rewarding. Mr. Ohlsson has an impressive technique and elicits a powerful sound from the piano, effectively balanced here with an alluringly limpid touch in gentler moments and the right-hand runs.

It was a program that required stamina. Mr. Ohlsson offered Chopin’s Sonata No. 3 as the finale, playing with passion and power. Sandwiched between the three oft-programmed behemoths were three lesser-known selections by the American composer Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884-1920), best known for his tone poem “The Pleasure-Dome of Kubla Khan.”

Griffes, who died young of the Spanish flu, became fascinated with the music of the French Impressionists and Scriabin during a trip to Europe. Their influence is reflected in his poetic titles, chromatic harmonies and rippling patterns, like those in “The Fountain of Acqua Paola” from “Roman Sketches,” which also evokes pieces by Liszt and Ravel. Mr. Ohlsson conveyed the wild abandon of the Scherzo in “Fantasy Pieces” and the more languorous character of “The White Peacock,” inspired by a text by the Scottish poet William Sharp comparing the peacock to “a dream of the moonlight,” “pale as the breath of blue smoke in far woodlands.”

Mr. Ohlsson, who often performs Chopin in his recitals, offered two waltzes as encores: a muscular rendition of the Waltz in E flat (Op. 18) and a lithe, delicate interpretation of the Waltz in C sharp minor (Op. 64, No. 2).

By Vivien Schweitzer
The New York Times
View Original Article