One comes away from a recital by pianist Brian Ganz not only exhilarated by the power of the performance but also moved by his search for artistic truth. His concerts always reveal new ideas and broader understandings, and an opportunity to hear him explore Chopin at length at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland on Thursday was a welcome one.
The B-flat Minor Sonata No. 2, with its funeral-march third movement, was played to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Chopin's death, and played with passion and energy. But Ganz's intellect was tested most powerfully by the 24 Preludes, Op. 28, fleeting miniatures, many of them, whose brief brilliance and stormy moods must make themselves felt without preamble. Both physically and emotionally this is muscular music, despite Chopin's sometimes effete reputation, and Ganz dug into it with enormous conviction and technical finesse. Big, fast movements weren't just stormy. They were exuberant or furious or abrupt or angst-ridden, and each of the quieter, more introspective movements had its own very personal character also. Rhythmically, Ganz provided a pretty straightforward reading that gave the music space to breathe but avoided mannerisms. The performance was a triumph of concentration, and the audience repaid the compliment with quiet attention.
The program began with four of the deceptively simple Mazurkas, microcosms of a musical world that Chopin alone inhabited.