Episode 85: Great Chopinists: Garrick Ohlsson

Mazurkas, Op. 7, Nos. 1-3

rc-ohlsson-200“Even people who barely know anything about Classical music say ‘Oh, I don’t know anything, but that Chopin piece, oh that’s wonderful. Then there’s usually some gesture involving the heart.”

Garrick Ohlsson is a great Chopinist who can tell you EXACTLY the time he discovered the music of Chopin. It was played by…

"...a man named Arthur Rubenstein, I was 9, it was 1957, he gave an all-Chopin recital at Carnegie Hall that season. I knew he was famous, I knew he was supposed to be great. And it all was true, but I knew that this was something qualitatively different, and I do remember that he started with the Polonaise in F-sharp minor, and ended with the G minor Ballade… so by age 9, I was very Chopin conscious."

So “conscious” of Chopin that Garrick Ohlsson became the first American ever to win the prestigious Chopin competition. The year was 1970; Poland was deeply buried behind the Iron Curtain.

"I became sort of a public favorite because I was an American. I was from the West, during a time when they knew it wasn’t that easy for us to come in and out. Although of course it was impossible for them. And I kept coming back year after year after year. I really felt fed and very much nourished by this experience, both as a musician personally as a career thing, and just by an audience that really seemed to hunger...to hear me, and wonderful music.”

Ever since, the large and gregarious Garrick Ohlsson has become one of America’s, Poland’s and the world’s most prominent Chopinists, in recital, and on record. He’s recorded ALL of Chopin’s music – at least twice. NOT that there is much physical resemblance:

"I’m actually a very weird pairing with Chopin, because he never weighed over a hundred pounds his whole life, and he was sickly and frail and died young and he hated playing concerts, and none of those things apply to me."

“I always say in interviews in Poland 'Chopin, of course, is your face to the world, but for us, he’s the face of one of the greatest composers of all time, of Poland, and he belongs to all of us, because what pianist or musician doesn’t have Chopin in his heart? Very few'. He is the most beloved of all the great composers.”

Garrick Ohlsson...a Great Chopinist. - Mike McKay & Benjamin K. Roe


Radio Chopin Episode 85: Great Chopinists: Garrick Ohlsson

Mazurka in B-flat Major, Op. 7, No. 1

Mazurka in A minor, Op. 7, No. 2

Mazurka in F minor, Op. 7, No. 3