Pianist Brian Ganz Announces Strathmore Concert: CHOPIN'S HIDDEN GEMS & ALL-TIME FAVORITES
Join pianist Brian Ganz this Valentine's Day weekend on Feb. 10 as he continues his unprecedented journey through the complete works of Frédéric Chopin with "Chopin's Hidden Gems & All Time Favorites" at The Music Center at Strathmore. The 8th concert of the series will offer some of the Romantic master's most popular works alongside his least known pieces.
Among the virtually unknown works will be the two Bourrées, the Tarantella, Op. 43, the Fugue in A minor, the Souvenir de Paganini, and the unfinished Canon, alongside celebrated favorites such as the Fantaisie-Impromptu, the "Minute" Waltz, the "Military" Polonaise and the acclaimed "Heroic" Polonaise in A-flat major. Audiences will discover little-known gems by the great composer as they rediscover some of his most beloved works. Ganz began his "Extreme Chopin" quest in January 2011 at a sold-out recital in partnership with The National Philharmonic at The Music Center at Strathmore. He has since maintained a brimming concert schedule to perform Chopin's entire oeuvre. "As far as I know, Brian is the first musician to attempt to perform all of Chopin's works," said Piotr Gajewski, National Philharmonic music director. Witness musical history in the making. The performance is Saturday, February 10, 2018, at 8 p.m. in Strathmore's Concert Hall. Ticket prices are $28-$88 and are free for young people age 7-17. Strathmore is located at 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.nationalphilharmonic.org or call 301.581.5100.
"At first glance, this program can look a bit like a potpourri of disconnected works," pianist Ganz said, "But I've organized it along a few themes to show connections between the works that might not meet the eye. For example, in one section of the program I play the little known 3 'Nouvelles' Etudes, two of which offer the pianist tricky rhythmic challenges. I follow them with the ever popular Fantaisie-Impromptu, which employs both tricky rhythms!"
The Fantasie-Impromptu is a favorite of Ganz. To demonstrate its popularity, he noted it has been performed in numerous movies and TV shows including Fame, Flowers for Algernon, Lost in Translation and even an episode of the Simpsons.
The program begins with three dances from European nations in a section Ganz calls "Chopin the Traveler." Two of the three are little known, the Italian-influenced Tarantella, Op. 43 and the Spanish-inspired Bolero, Op. 19. The third, the beloved "Military" Polonaise, is a nod to the great composer's homeland of Poland. "The Bolero is probably the best work of Chopin that few people know," continued Ganz.
"This program represents the greatest number of disparate pieces I've played to date in all my Chopin recitals," said Ganz. "That's why I felt it was important to organize the pieces coherently." He is devoting over a decade to performing every piece Chopin wrote for the piano (over 250), and he is well on his way with his "Extreme Chopin" quest to be perhaps the first known to perform every note the great Romantic composer wrote.
February marks the beginning of his eighth year of the project, and Ganz 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. Some of these are in his Top 40, some are the hidden gems. In my journey through Chopin's complete works, I will play every single note he composed, and this includes all the works he composed along the way to artistic maturity. Even unfinished works like the Canon in F minor! That unknown piece is very lovely and poignant, partly because Chopin left it unfinished. I considered commissioning a composer to finish the work, but ultimately decided it is more moving to allow it to stand as is," continued Ganz. "As it trails off it serves as a reminder of Chopin's unfinished life, indeed the unfinished lives of so many great composers who died young. The fugue, on the other hand, is decisively finished- and one of Chopin's most beautiful unknown works." Additional unfamiliar works to be performed include a little known waltz in A-flat major, the Largo in E-flat major and the Polonaise in F minor, Op. 71, No. 3.
"The F minor Polonaise is quite expressive, even soulful. I follow that with the great 'Heroic' Polonaise, which is all the more magnificent when it follows the rather dark F minor work." Ganz calls this process of playing an early Chopin work, then following it immediately with a mature work in the same genre, "musical gardening." "It's sort of the musical equivalent of time-lapse photography," he added. This presentation of the composer's less mature works allows the listener to appreciate Chopin's progression into more mature, developed compositions. "This development of his compositional mastery is easiest to track when heard within works of the same genre," said Ganz. "I try to show the audience how each successive work takes Chopin closer to his true voice. Eventually we hear his genius in full bloom."
Ganz's has a longstanding fondness for Chopin. During an interview with the Chester County Press, pianist and former Ganz student Jennifer Nicole Campbell said that during her training with Ganz at Peabody, he was known as "the Chopin guy. (Brian] introduced me to a whole new way of thinking about music. He was extremely conscious of everything in life being put into the music. I knew right away, even before I applied to the school, that he was my teacher," Campbell said.
Ganz sometimes brings his entire collection of Chopin's music to a performance so that he can accept requests from the audience. "One of my lifelong goals has been to study every single note Chopin composed," Ganz said. "This project gives me a lovely framework within which to reach that goal." 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 11. "Chopin's music is the language of my soul, and I have dreamed since childhood of someday performing all of his works," said Ganz, who is widely regarded as one of the leading pianists of his generation. In an article about the project, the Baltimore Sun wrote: "The boy was 11, already well along in his process of discovering music, when he 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 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 a member of the piano faculty and Artist-in- Residence at St. Mary's College of Maryland. He also serves on the piano faculty of the Peabody Conservatory, and has been a member of the jury of the Long Thibaud Competition in Paris.
Led by Maestro Gajewski, The National Philharmonic is known for performances that are "powerful," "impeccable," and "thrilling" (The Washington Post). In July 2003, the National Chamber Orchestra and Masterworks Chorus merged to create The National Philharmonic, an ensemble with more than 50 years of combined history, bringing high caliber musical performances to the Washington area. The National Philharmonic took up residence at the state-of-the-art Music Center at Strathmore upon its opening in February 2005. Now, more than 250 performances later, and with far-reaching educational programming, The National Philharmonic is the largest and most active professional orchestra based in Montgomery County.
The National Philharmonic boasts a long-standing tradition of reasonably priced tickets and free admission to all young people age 7-17, assuring its place as an accessible and enriching component in Montgomery County and the greater Washington, D.C., area. As the Music Center at Strathmore's orchestra-in-residence, The National Philharmonic showcases world-renowned guest artists in time-honored symphonic masterpieces conducted by Maestro Gajewski, with additional conducting by Associate Conductor Victoria Gau, and monumental choral masterworks under National Philharmonic Chorale Artistic Director Stan Engebretson.
To purchase tickets for the performances and for a complete schedule, please visit www.nationalphilharmonic.org or call the Strathmore Ticket Office at 301.581.5100. Tickets are $28-$88; young people 7-17 are free through the ALL KIDS, ALL FREE, ALL THE TIME program. ALL KIDS tickets must be purchased in person or by phone. Complimentary parking is available.