Garrick Ohlsson at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven & Chopin

Beethoven
Piano Sonata No.30 in E, Op.109
Chopin
Mazurka in A minor, Op.7/2
Piano Sonata No.3 in B minor, Op.58

Garrick Ohlsson (piano)


Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 10 November, 2014
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Garrick Ohlsson. Photograph: G.O.'s Facebook pageGarrick Ohlsson began this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert at Wigmore Hall with the first in the trilogy of Beethoven’s final Piano Sonatas. His performance was notable for its beauty of tone and tendency to pause for contemplation. Ohlsson was in no hurry, yet the reading did not drag, for the expression lent to the right-hand carried profound depth. In this way the otherworldly quality of Beethoven’s rippling figuration was immediately established. A stern scherzo provided a brief but marked burst of contradiction to this mood, leading to the hymn-like melody on which Beethoven bases six variations for the finale. Ohlsson took us to wondrous places in the slow variations especially, while the final one, with its fiendish trills, was incredibly powerful.

Chopin contributed three Piano Sonatas, like Beethoven expanding the formal approach as he did so. The B minor is arguably the most satisfying of them. Ohlsson prefaced it with a solemn but beautifully turned early Mazurka, whose sighing figuration in the left-hand was wonderfully executed. This also ensured the restless audience was settled when the Sonata began.

The balance between Ohlsson’s hands was ideal – a standard observation, perhaps, but Chopin writes so much of melodic interest for the left that it was good to hear it sensitively played, particularly in the flowing account of the first movement. When the dynamics were louder Ohlsson was similarly sensitive, saving the most noticeable increase in volume for the joyous culmination to the finale. Before this came a whirlwind scherzo where each note was clearly defined and a deeply poignant Largo.

Ohlsson’s encore was also by Chopin, a lovingly played Waltz in C sharp minor Opus 64/2, elevated to exquisite, the rhythms given plenty of persuasive give and take.

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