In high school, my geography mistress was the sweetest soul who managed to keep discipline just by her sheer good nature. She had a big heart, and physique to match. When she paced up and down the aisles between our desks, there was a tremor in the building. She was Wagnerian in her proportions. Imagine our astonishment, then, when she turned up at our Matric dance (the equivalent of a high school prom) with her petit husband, and, when they took to the dance floor, she was as nimble and seemingly light as a feather!
When the American pianist, Garrick Ohlsson, walks out on stage, he cuts a formidable figure. At six foot four and with an impressive girth, he would not be out of place on an American football field. And yet, like my geography teacher’s dancing, his playing is quite the opposite of what one would expect. When he played that gorgeous opening passage in Rachmaninov’s Third Piano concerto with the Baltimore Symphony this weekend, his touch was so lyrical and sensitive that I found myself holding my breath. Sure, he can be enormously powerful and there were times in that fiendishly difficult concerto when his hands were a blur, but those quiet passages were played with such a fluid relaxation that his right forefinger just slipped effortlessly off the keyboard after sounding the note one time. From such a big man, with a keyboard stretch of a 12th in the left hand and an 11th in right, one expects power, and we got it. The light touch and sensitivity were a delicious surprise.classical music, Garrick Ohlsson, Rachmaninoff