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Tim Perry
MusicWeb International, November 2011

The first movement is nicely paced, flowing and big. Indeed “big” is the right word for this performance. Loughran knows what he is doing with this music. He draws a well blended, robust sound from the orchestra, right from the opening horn call. Ohlsson shares his dramatic conception of the concerto, moving from gentle rhapsodic playing to roaring climaxes with the ebb and flow of the musical narrative. The uncredited principal cellist brings grace and charm to the andante, which Ohlsson matches and exceeds, and the finale is smile-coaxingly playful, but never lightweight. The highlight of this performance is the second movement. Ohlsson is at his rhapsodic best here. There are occasional wrong notes and horn wobbles, but they matter little when the performance is as exciting as this one.

The 1974 recital is fabulously 70s, from the font that flashes onto the screen to announce the recital in time to the opening chords of the Scherzo to the wavy beige studio backdrop. Ohlsson’s Chopin is superb. The Scherzo sparks with nervous energy and, under Ohlsson’s fingers, rings more with tragedy than mere melancholy. The Polonaise that follows is big and appealingly playful, like Hans Sachs merrily mending shoes with a large hammer. Funérailles is dark and menacing, seemingly powered by Ohlsson’s relentless left hand. The size of Ohlsson’s mitts is astonishing. If ever hands were built for the piano, his were. Read complete review

Scott Morrison, May 2011

These performances by Garrick Ohlsson were recorded in the 1970s, not so very long after he had won the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, the only American ever to do so. The recital portion was recorded in 1974 (when Ohlsson was just 26) and the Brahms concerto in 1978.

The Brahms Second Piano Concerto, with James Loughran conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, was recorded live by BBC-TV at the 1978 Proms in the Royal Albert Hall, London. The very slender Ohlsson, always a commanding figure at 6′4″ (195cm), has enormous hands, capable of playing an octave plus a fifth, and it is a real pleasure to see them handling Brahms’s often impossible chords and figurations with ease. This is a magisterial account of the concerto. It is a pity that the principal cellist playing that meltingly beautiful melody at the beginning of the third movement is unnamed in the DVD’s booklet.

The recital portion of the DVD consists of a scintillating Chopin Scherzo No. 1 in B Minor, Op. 20; the ‘Heroic’ Polonaise in A Flat, Op. 53 (with Ohlsson’s exceptionally exciting left-hand octaves in the final portion), and a moving Liszt ‘Funérailles’ from the ‘Harmonies poétiques et religieuses’.

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