Keyboard Concerts welcomes back Garrick Ohlsson for an evening of Brahms
Fresno’s premier piano performance series has a slightly new name to open its 47th season: the Philip Lorenz International Keyboard Concerts series. For close observers of this world-class cultural tradition at Fresno State, you’ll notice that “International” has replaced the word “Memorial.”
When I asked Andreas Werz, artistic director of the series, about the change, he told me that it’s been 25 years since Lorenz passed away. It was time. “Memorial” sounds a little stuffy. And “International” is an apt descriptive term, considering the powerhouse lineup that the series brings each season.
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That season gets off to an exciting start on Friday, Sept. 14, with a performance by Garrick Ohlsson. He is the first and only American to win first prize in the International Frédéric Chopin Piano Competition. He won the Avery Fisher Prize and has been nominated for three Grammy awards (for those who are counting).
“This is a long-lasting friendship,” Werz says of Ohlsson, who has played for the series at least eight times, stretching all the way back to Philip Lorenz’s tenure. “He loves coming here. He is the pianist who has performed the most for Keyboard than anybody.”
Friday’s concert is special. Ohlsson will perform an all-Brahms program. It is the first part of a current project to present all the piano works by Brahms in four recitals over two seasons.
Just think of all those notes to master.
“He has a tremendous ability to study and retain a big amount of repertoire,” Werz says. “If he’s interested in Scriabin, he wants to do all of it. If he does Beethoven, he wants to do all of it. That’s just his way.”
Looking ahead toward a powerhouse season, Werz is particularly excited about the Oct. 7 performance of South Korean musician Yekwon Sunwoo, gold medalist of last year’s prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. And on April 10, the series will welcome its first Hungarian pianist, Dénes Várjon.
There’s a new three-concert World Music Series as well, which will be kicked off by pianist/composer Tigran Hamasyan, whose jazz improvisation fuses with the folkloric heritage of Armenia.
For those who aren’t familiar with Keyboard Concerts, it’s good to know that the musicians who come to perform in Fresno are among the top in the world. But the prices you’ll pay to hear them in the intimate Fresno State Concert Hall are much lower than at most major metropolitan areas.
Let the Brahms (and many, many other composers) begin!