The Washington Post

Pianist Brian Ganz plays Chopin with joy, nuance and insight


Brian Ganz performs part of his “Chopin Project” presented by the National Philharmonic Orchestra at the Strathmore. (Jay Mallin)

It’s easy to see why so many Washingtonians flocked to hear pianist Brian Ganz present an all-Chopin recital Saturday evening at the Music Center at Strathmore. Not only did the Maryland native play some joyful, nuanced pieces, but he added personal commentary and musical demonstrations in between his performances that were equally informative, insightful and entertaining.

Ganz’s pursuit of his “Extreme Chopin” project, which began in 2011 with the National Philharmonic, has been a multiyear quest to perform the composer’s complete works — some 250 solo, chamber and orchestral compositions in all.

For his third program, Ganz focused on the “miniature” works — a selection of mazurkas and other dance-based pieces and, of course, the preludes.

The pianist’s cheerful demeanor seeped into Five Mazurkas, Op. 7, where he played up the humorous moments, eliciting appreciative chuckles from the audience. In his hands, the rarely performed Trois Ecossaises, Op. 72, No. 3, became effervescent light beams. Ganz chased them down with the reflective Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor, Op. Posth., followed by the charming Prelude in A-Flat.

Mixed in with these bite-size pieces were two ballades. Ganz achieved a warm, tender tone in Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23, and in Ballade No. 3 in A-Flat, he played with emotional restraint and measured tempos.

Ganz devoted his second half to the 24 Preludes, Op. 28. Each one unfolded like a course on a chef’s tasting menu — two dozen melt-in-your-mouth morsels of complementary flavors, textures and emotion.

Jean is a freelance writer.

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