An interview with Garrick Ohlsson
He’s here to play but let’s hope we also get to hear some words from Garrick Ohlsson. The loquacious American pianist who is sometimes known as “The Chopin Guy” (for obvious reasons) likes to chat to his audience, sometimes about Chopin, sometimes about Scriabin (both of whom feature strongly in this Music Viva tour program) or other composers and music in general.
Ohlsson is an erudite and entertaining man who loves to background his performances. In particular, hearing him talk about Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915), the enigmatic Russian pianist, is a treat. Ohlsson is fascinated with Scriabin whom he describes as “canonical yet relatively rarely heard because all his music is for piano solo”.
“I like to talk about Scriabin because very often the concert going audience doesn’t have a handle on who he is,” Ohlsson offers. “He starts out as a Chopin obsessive but by the end of his life he is very much an individual. I love talking to the audience about him because he is so out there. He was also obsessed with Chopin as a child. He was this neurasthenic, hypersensitive teenager who slept with Chopin’s music under his pillow.”
Scriabin, he explains, is “one of the strangest and most interesting composers”. He was also a philosopher and even a bit of a mystic with an interest in theosophy, a man who “wanted to save the world through his art”.
Scriabin’s powerful, impressionistic music is an ideal match for Ohlsson’s authoritative playing. He’s a physically imposing figure whose playing style has been described as projecting an “Olympian serenity”.