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Pianist delights audience with world-renowned skills

Garrick Ohlsson, winner of the 1970 International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, graced the community with a memorial recital at California State University (CSU), Fresno, Jan. 11.

The concert was in honor of Philip Lorenz, who was an internationally-acclaimed concert pianist, a professor of piano at CSU, Fresno, and the founder and lifetime director of the Keyboard Concerts series until his passing 20 years ago. This marks the series?s 14th performance.

Born in White Plains, N.Y., Ohlsson was introduced to piano at the age of eight. By 13 years of age, he was accepted into The Julliard School in New York City, which is an accomplishment worthy of praise. This veteran of piano is no stranger to being recognized for his musical prowess, as he is a proficient recording artist and won a Grammy for Vol. 3 of his ten-disc set of the complete Beethoven sonatas for Bridge Records. He currently resides in San Francisco, CA.

According to his interview with The Fresno Bee, Ohlsson?s first appearance at the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts series occurred in the ?70s and he has returned six or seven times since then. Ohlsson knew Lorenz on a personal level, as the musicians would convene after Ohlsson?s concerts in Fresno to ?gossip like crazy about the music world.?

I am not very familiar with classical piano music, nor am I an avid fan of this genre; however my first experience in this sort of venue left me in awe of Ohlsson?s breathtaking talent.

His repertoire is incredibly vast, encompassing pieces from Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Haydn and Chopin. Despite his wide variety of options, Ohlsson chose to perform seven songs composed by Franz Liszt.

The first half of the concert featured two longer pieces, which were darker and more intense than the songs played after the performance’s intermission. Ohlsson?s acute familiarity and emotional connection with these pieces was evident, as he moved with the music, charming the keys into releasing the perfect sounds for each measure.

The latter half of the show included five shorter, lighter pieces. These impressed me greatly. Ohlsson?s fingers moved so rapidly that they seemed to fly up and down the keys of their own accord. His ability to allow the music to take over his entire body was evidence of his mastery. Although I do not know any of Liszt?s works, I partially recognized certain moments in one of the songs.

Ohlsson’s ability to flawlessly perform such technical, demanding pieces evoked a great deal of respect from me. I would prefer to experience a more easily recognizable Impressionist composer, such as Debussy, but, regardless, this personal preference does not lessen my appreciation for Ohlsson’s selection of pieces.

Those who had the pleasure of experiencing Ohlsson?s performance may want to return to the CSU, Fresno Concert Hall to witness Daniil Trifonov?s performance of works by Schubert/Liszt, Schubert, Debussy and Chopin, Feb. 19 at 3 p.m. This 20-year-old Russian pianist was a gold medalist in the 2011 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition and a winner of the 2011 Rubinstein International Piano Competition. Tickets are $18 for general admission, $12 for seniors and $5 for students.

For more information on CSU, Fresno, events, visit their website.

For more reviews, read the Jan. 13 article, Teahouse brews beverages for Fresno community.

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