Brian Ganz Performs Chopin at The Music Center at Strathmore

The performance is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24.

By: Feb. 12, 2024
Brian Ganz Performs Chopin at The Music Center at Strathmore

As Brian Ganz nears the conclusion of his “Extreme Chopin Quest” to play all 250 of Chopin’s works he will offer “Chopin the Virtuoso,” at The Music Center at Strathmore at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24. Widely regarded as one of the leading pianists of his generation, this recital celebrates Ganz’s 13th in his quest to be the first to perform the complete works of the classical composer Frédéric Chopin.  He saves Chopin’s most challenging and technically difficult works for this special evening as well as his most hummable (Rondo in E-flat major, Op. 16).  Ganz began his “Extreme Chopin” journey in January 2011 with a sold-out recital in partnership with The National Philharmonic at The Music Center at Strathmore.. Strathmore is located at 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit nationalphilharmonic.org or call 301.581.5100. Ticket prices are $19–$99 and free for young people 7–17. There is a 20% discount for military veterans.

Ganz said about the Rondo in E-flat major, ”Chopin's rondos are his most neglected works. They deserve to be much better known. This one has one of Chopin's most delightful and singable tunes. I defy anyone to hear it and not hum it the rest of the day!"

Ganz will perform a total of seventeen works—five before intermission, and twelve afterward. The first half of the evening will feature Introduction and Rondo, Op. 16, followed by Polonaise in G-flat major, Op. Posth.; Impromptu No. 3 in G-flat major, Op. 51; 2 Nocturnes, Op. 37; and Scherzo No. 1 in B minor, Op. 20. After intermission, Ganz will perform the pièces de resistance, the 12 Etudes, Op. 25. Ganz calls these etudes Chopin’s “virtuosic summit.”

“Chopin's 250 or so works are almost without question the most beloved ever composed for the piano,” Ganz said. “Many of them are within the technical reach of advanced amateur pianists,” he continued. “But about half of them are supremely demanding for even the most seasoned professionals. This year I am setting out to tackle the pinnacle of those demanding works, the 12 Etudes, or Studies, Op. 25.”

Ganz continued: “Although each etude is an independent work, there is a storytelling logic behind the complete set of twelve. For example, number nine is the famous ‘Butterfly’ Etude, one of the lightest and most sparkling. It's almost a musical decoy, as it does not let on what is about to transpire, the way a great moviemaker might set up a shocking surprise. He follows the light, scintillating “Butterfly” with three etudes that have been aptly called 'colossi,' as they make supreme demands on the pianist's strength, endurance and emotional power. They are a fitting climax to Chopin’s virtuosic summit." 

“What is truly miraculous about these etudes is that, despite the fact that they are so hard to play, it is their beauty that the listener notices above all,” said Ganz. “They are works of great art first and foremost. We could call them ‘joyously, gorgeously challenging.’ Come join me in a celebration of that joy and that gorgeous challenge. But, above all, a celebration of their breathtaking beauty."

Ganz has made it his life’s mission to play all of Chopin’s works. “Initially, I thought it would take me 10 years to perform Chopin’s full repertoire,” said Ganz. “But I underestimated him! The good news is that we all get to extend the sheer joy of this project for a few more years. I’ll have played all of Chopin’s works by year 16.”

Ganz is well on his way with his “Extreme Chopin” quest to be the first known to perform all of Chopin’s 250 works, and he has been captivating concert audiences of 2,000-plus since he began. Of the lesser-known works, Ganz says, “There’s something beautiful in everything Chopin wrote. In my journey through Chopin's complete works, I will play every single note he composed for the piano, and this includes all the works he composed along the way to artistic maturity.” 

Ganz sometimes brings his entire collection of Chopin’s music to a performance so that he can accept requests from the audience. “It has been one of my lifelong goals to study and perform every single note Chopin composed,” Ganz said. In an exuberant review of an all-Chopin recital Ganz played at the Polish Embassy, The Washington Post wrote, “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.”

In 2010, Ganz visited Poland, invited by the renowned conductor Miroslaw Blaszczyk to 
play with the Filharmonia Slaska and Filharmonia Pomorska. Visiting Chopin’s home country affected Ganz profoundly. “Chopin is Poland’s national treasure. His face was pictured everywhere, sometimes with no name under it and no caption of any kind. It is almost as if he is the air people breathe. This was profoundly satisfying to me, because he has always been the air I breathe,” Ganz said. “I visited the church where his heart lies in Warsaw. I visited the monument where outside concerts take place under a graceful, sweeping statue of him. I took a taxi to his birthplace in Zelazowa Wola. The whole experience was a pilgrimage for me.”

Ganz’s Chopin inspiration started as young as age 9. “Chopin’s music is the language of my soul, and I have dreamed since childhood of someday performing all of his works,” said Ganz. In an article about the project, the Baltimore Sun wrote: “Ganz found himself alone at home one day listening to Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Opus 23. Something in the piece struck Brian Ganz like a bolt from stormy skies.” Ganz recounted that moment, saying, “How can it be so beautiful that it hurts? That was the moment that I like to say Chopin wounded me.”

Ganz has shared First Grand Prize in the Marguerite Long Jacques Thibaud International 
Piano Competition and won a silver medal with 3rd prize in the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium International Competition. He has performed as a soloist with such orchestras as the St. Louis Symphony, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the City of London Sinfonia and Paris’s L’Orchestre Lamoureux and under the direction of conductors such as Leonard Slatkin and Mstislav Rostropovich. He is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Leon Fleisher. Earlier teachers include Ylda Novik and Claire Deene. 

Gifted as a teacher himself, Ganz is on the piano faculty of St. Mary's College of Maryland, where he is artist-in-residence, and until recently, was a member of the piano faculty of the Peabody Conservatory. He is the artist-editor of the Schirmer Performance Edition of Chopin’s Preludes (2005). Recent performance highlights include Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 at the Alba Music Festival in Italy and with The National Philharmonic at Strathmore, Mozart's Piano Concerto K. 488 with the Virginia Chamber Orchestra at the new Capital One Hall in Tysons Corner, and a solo recital for the Distinguished Artists Series of Santa Cruz, California. Later this season he will appear on George Mason University’s “Great Performances at Mason” series. Ganz has also been a member of the jury of the Long Thibaud Competition in Paris.

To purchase tickets for the performances and for information about the Philharmonic’s upcoming season, please visit nationalphilharmonic.org or call the Strathmore Ticket Office at 301.581.5100.




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