Adelaide Festival 2020: Garrick Ohlsson

Image courtesy of Adelaide Festival

Who: Garrick Ohlsson and Musica Viva

Where: Adelaide Town Hall

When: 2 March 2020 7:30pm (one and only concert!) details here

The stage is empty except for a grand piano and Garrick Ohlsson himself. There was nothing to disguise the music, this performance was purely an honest showcasing of the great skill that Ohlsson possesses as a pianist. He is an imposing figure of 6’4 and his demeanor is composed, almost stoic, yet when his hands touch the piano keys an outpouring of emotion rings through the hall.

I’m not here to discuss or list every single movement of every piece he played, but the program consisted of the likes of Beethoven, Prokofiev, and (of course) Chopin. What was outstanding and what I want to discuss is the spectacular way in which he played these pieces. With a developed and distinct style, Ohlsson’s rendition of each classical piece had me in awe. Of course, Chopin is what most people were looking forward to hearing, Ohlsson famously remains the one and only American to ever win the Chopin International Piano Competition in 1970, and since then has launched his trajectory as a world class pianist.

I wish I was sitting closer to the stage to know whether he was closing his eyes whilst playing (let’s be honest, he probably was). Ohlsson is someone who has perfected his craft. When he plays, you can feel the intention behind every note. Ohlsson is passionate and so intimately intertwined with the piano, the manipulation between him and the keys yields some of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard – a stream of sound that is so magical and seemingly effortless.

The way in which he is technically good is highlighted in his capability to build tension throughout a piece, the dynamics and his touch illustrates emotion that cannot be captured as well or conveyed through any recording. Seeing it, and hearing it in the flesh was what made attending this concert so incredibly worthwhile.

I appreciate how much Ohlsson adores his supporters, while the performance is largely focused on him, his ability and is a genuine exhibition of his talent, the encore pieces are for us, the audience. He has made it a point in the past, that those who are busy leaving to beat the rush, miss out on this ode to his fans. Last night, we were fortunate to finish on a piece Ohlsson said “is too famous to introduce,” Debussy’s Clair de Lune. Truly magnificent.

Ohlsson’s performance literally brought tears to my eyes. My life has changed, and I will never be the same. He really is one of the greats of our time.

5/5 stars

– by Rachel Wong

PS: I was probably one of the youngest people in the audience, and this performance had ticket deals for under 40s! So stop sleeping on classical music people. It’s bomb.

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