Pianist Garrick Ohlsson spent most of yesterday fogged in at the Detroit Airport, arriving late in Washington's barely-better weather and with no time for the slightest warming up. A cancellation had been announced already, and an estimated 500 people were turned away before the schedule was reinstated. Considering what kind of day Ohlsson must have had, his piano recital at the Concert Hall found him in splendid form.
He played works by Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy and Chopin. Perhaps appropriately, it was the cascades of Mozart's classicism and the misty sounds of Debussy that spoke most eloquently. Ohlsson's dynamics and his fondness for the pedal were not always Mozartean, but his touch was lithe and coy in the lovely Sonatensatz in B-flat major, K. 400.
The Six Etudes by Debussy represent the composer's syntactic rainbow of the piano's possibilities. At times Ohlsson's colors were more boldly realized than we have come to expect from these pieces, as in the arpeggios that opened the set. But his virtuosity dazzled and his rhythmic control commanded attention. In Debussy's familiar "L'Ile Joyeuse" there were rich velvet textures instead of the usual silks, veiling the sound in a joyful whirlwind through an impassioned climax.