"Nordic Legends" with pianist Garrick Ohlsson
Thomas Dausgaard, conductor
Garrick Ohlsson, piano
February 17 at 8:00 pm / February 19 at 7:30 pm
Roy Thomson Hall
Toronto, Ontario – Garrick Ohlsson (who is part
Swedish) performs the timeless Piano Concerto by Edvard Grieg,
who was called "the Chopin of the North"; his music bears the unmistakable
stamp of his Norwegian homeland, as in the folk-dance-inspired finale of
this concerto. Carl Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony was his last in a
purely Romantic style, filled with expansive tunes and rich harmonies.
Opening the programme is a fanciful piece by Franz Berwald,
Play of the Elves (February 17 only), a Swedish contemporary of
Beethoven. Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard steps up to the podium.
Garrick Ohlsson reminds one of Commander Will Riker from
Star Trek: The Next Generation – a big, hulking, masculine guy, ready for
action. He looks like a lumberjack more befitting a bearskin hat and red and
black-checked jacket than a fine interpreter of Chopin who wears tails on a
regular basis. Mr. Ohlsson, born in 1948, acknowledges his stature: "I’m a
big guy," pianist says. ‘I am not a bantamweight pianist or person, though."
He is in fact 6 feet 4 and "250-ish." His power at the keyboard is quickly
obvious, and his tremendous stamina becomes evident with time. His huge
technique, combined with a placid, unostentatious demeanour, makes
everything look easy. But Garrick Ohlsson can play as quietly, and lyrically
as any sensitive artist. Now based in San Francisco with partner Robert
Guter, a historic preservationist, Mr. Ohlsson grew up in White Plains, New
York, with an even-keeled Swedish father and a volatile, emotional
Sicilian-American mother, making young Garrick a "reconciliator." Ohlsson
developed great abilities in languages and mathematics; he speaks Italian,
Spanish, French, German, some Swedish and Polish. He is also serious about
food. He calls himself a "gourmand gourmet," likes to eat a lot, and jokes
about it. "Musicians are a pretty sensuous bunch," he explains, "and most of
us don’t like to eat a big meal before a show because it slightly impairs
you, making you feel a bit groggy. As a result you’re not relaxed
beforehand. But nothing could be better than to go out with your colleagues
afterwards and eat, drink, and be merry, and talk about what went wrong and
what went right, and what you can do better the next time." He is also an
expert on wines. And to top off his total coolness, he is a science fiction
As a teen – age 15 -- he became serious about his music.
"That was the time I got desperately serious about practicing. I had an
epiphany at a Carnegie Hall recital played by Emil Gilels about how good I
wasn’t. I had a seat on stage, and that was one of the great romantic times
of my life, to sit three feet from a great pianist at the top of his form,
doing what you have to do. And I thought, ‘Oh, no. You’re pretty good, but
you’re just a pipsqueak.’" The self-professed "pipsqueak," who would go on
to clean up at the 1970 Chopin International Piano Competition, has come a
long way since then to tackle all the top performing venues worldwide, and
to continue living the jet set life.
SPONSORS: Feb. 17 is part of the CBC Radio 2 Live! series;
Feb. 19 is part of the BANANA REPUBLIC Casual Concerts Series. Tickets: Roy
Thomson Hall box office at 416 593 4828.
Thursday: $110, $83, $78, $68, $60, $45, $37, $32.
Saturday: $65, $58, $54, $50, $46, $37, $30, $25.
Mon-Fri, 9-8. Sat, 12-5. Sun, 2 hrs prior to concert start.
Toronto Symphony Orchestra
#550 – 212 King Street West, Toronto, ON, M5H 1K5
Marketing fax: 416 593 8660 www.tso.ca