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Choral and Vocal
SILVER ANNIVERSARY BACH RECITAL AT INCARNATION'S EVENSONG SERVICE
by Terry McNeill
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Symphony
JOY, LOVELY DIVINE SPARK!
by Steve Osborn
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Other
DINOVA PIANISM CHARMS SATED AUDIENCE AT J-B MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
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Symphony
SHOSTAKOVICH 5TH A TRIUMPH FOR SSU ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 19, 2022
Choral and Vocal
SONOMA BACH'S WORLD IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, November 19, 2022
Recital
ASSERTIVE PIANISM IN YAKUSHEV'S OCCIDENTAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 13, 2022
Symphony
SPARKLING PONCHIELLI AND IMPOSING SCHUMAN AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 12, 2022
Chamber
CONTRASTS GALORE AT THE VIANO'S CONCERT AT THE 222
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 11, 2022
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY STOMPS ALONG TO MARSALIS VIOLIN CONCERTO
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 6, 2022
Choral and Vocal
TRAVELS WITH SEBASTIAN IN SONOMA BACH'S OPENER IN SCHROEDER
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, October 29, 2022
SYMPHONY REVIEW
MasterCard Performance Series / Saturday, October 12, 2013
Garrick Ohlsson, piano

Pianist Garrick Ohlsson

VENTURING INTO THE UNKNOWN

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 12, 2013

Along with pianist Garrick Ohlsson's formidable technique and artistry, curiosity has been a hallmark of his long career. Though playing the conventional repertoire superbly, he constantly ventures into unknown corners of piano music.

The centerpiece of his Oct. 12 recital at Weill Hall in Rohnert Park was the seldom-heard Liszt work Ad Nos, Ad Salutarem Unam, written for organ in 1852 and transcribed for piano in 1897 by Busoni. In 23 minutes, Liszt (or should it be Busoni?) builds a massive structure that tested the sonic extremes of the hall's new piano. Mr. Ohlsson began the work's questioning and solemn first theme with care and perfect chordal weighting, and the clarity of lines in an occasionally clangorous sonic mix was exemplary. The playing was mostly orchestral for nearly 13 minutes, then the sun came out in a lovely chorale that points to Liszt's daring late-period harmonies. It's easy in this work to make too many tempo modifications, but Mr. Ohlsson adopted a rock-solid pace, even when building rock-splitting sonorities.

The fugue began judiciously and was carried in short passages until a thunderous conclusion. Also admirable were the lengthy right-hand scale runs and scintillating parallel octaves. The Ad Nos demands stamina as well as technical brilliance, and Mr. Ohlsson had ample amounts of both. A standing ovation followed the final chord, with some in the audience seeming dazed by what they had heard.

Was the rest of the program thrown into the shade by this prodigious performance? Not really, although the six Debussy studies that began the second half sounded a little prosaic. The selections from Book I exploit wildly contrasting moods. Mr. Ohlsson lavished here his considerable beauty of timbre and control of technical details, such as colorful glissandi, will-of-the-wisp passages and rapid chords in pesky close-hand positions. He has very large hands but manages to solve with apparent ease Debussy's most intricate figurations. The third selection in double fourths, Pour les Quartes, had a perfect impressionistic legato and was almost lapidary in execution.

The first half began with Brahms' B Minor and G Minor Op. 79 Rhapsodies, and the recital finished with Chopin's F Minor Fantasy, Op. 49. Both Brahms were big-boned readings, wonderfully bass-heavy with deft left-hand crossover passages capturing the turbulent character of the first and the fatalistic and extroverted character of the second. It was echt Brahms for the connoisseur.

I have heard Mr. Ohlsson's rendition of the Chopin Fantasy several times, but this performance was the most inspired and interesting. He began pensively with deft touches, including three extended fermatas and subtly rolled left-hand chords. The lyricism appeared in the first of three main theme repetitions where the contrary octave playing was resounding and accurate. The chaste chorale section was delicately played, but the final version of the march was treated to an unexpected accelerando leading to a bravura and passionate ending.

Two encores satisfied the happy crowd of 900, beginning with the aristocratic C-Sharp Minor Chopin Waltz from Op. 64. Mr. Ohlsson had fun with this work, making wily rhythmic alterations at each returning theme and stressing the languorous nature of the piece until the end, when speed and delicacy prevailed. It's hard to play very fast and also softly, but it's outwardly child's play for Mr. Ohlsson. A volcanic performance of Rachmaninoff's ever-popular C-Sharp Minor Prelude closed the recital, with playing as individual and convincing as all that had come before.