It’s not just an orchestra setting anymore. The Music Center at Strathmore is nationally known, yet seems underappreciated in the DMV area. The present home of the National Philharmonic, it is a preferred landing spot for classical artists and vocalists representing many genres. Especially appealing at this venue is the large, rectangular oval of the main stage, replete with high ceilings and an unobtrusive light wood background. Sound does not needlessly bounce around the chamber; it tends to hold in the air, lingering for anxious ears.
One recent spotlight was the program ‘Brian Ganz Plays Chopin, Reflections of Home.’ Paired with mezzo-soprano Magdalena Wor, we are treated to a fascinating dive into the mind and music of a master, guided by a rapt devotee in piano classicist Ganz.
A perfect antidote for slush, shutdowns and staying at home.
What was especially endearing is the personal touch that Ganz brought to the program. He, in coordination with the National Philharmonic, is in the last stages of performing all of Chopin’s works. One of the foremost pianists of his generation, his unabridged joy at interpreting the artist he admires and knows so well is evident in his gleeful demeanor. In fact, this defines his interpretive style.
Wordlessly, Ganz enters the stage and presents us with the initial 3 Mazurkas on the program. Short lilting pieces evocative of a pastoral dance, they served as an appetizer for the beauty of Chopin’s rhythmic mastery and a seque for Ganz to explain the pieces and his musical biopic for the evening.
Little known about the Polish-born Frederic Chopin, is that when he traveled to Paris on his first professional trip abroad in 1830, his country was invaded by Russia and he never returned. Ganz chronicles the longing for his homeland, filled with angst over the loss of his people’s heritage, and the sweet freedoms they cherished gone.
The songs of this era are filled with an aching regret and sense of loss, profoundly demonstrated by Ganz’ deft touch and passion. His style is to almost imbue himself into the works, with his head and torso being flung into the emotional fray. He does not hold back.
Accompanying Ganz in the exploration of Chopin was Magdalena Wor, herself a polish native. Appearing again with the pianist in Chopin’s’ work, they came off like old friends admiring a revered artist. Her mezzo-soprano was brought forth with effortless control. Later she shared her love of the poems of Chopin and, along with Ganz, recited several of them, displaying the artistic passion both had for the genius of word and lyric. She treated us to 10 Opuses in the Chopin catalogue of songs.
Ganz finished with Allegro de Concert, Opus 46, which he described as one of Chopin’s least performed works. Full of contrasting lyrical themes and a bombastic style, he shared that he did not understand the piece, but it slowly grew on him as he appreciated its vision of hope for the future.
Look for more hidden gems on the Strathmore and National Philharmonic schedule. A perfect antidote for slush, shutdowns and staying at home.
Running Time: 2 hours 10 minutes with an intermission.
“Brian Ganz Plays Chopin, Recollections of Home” is part of a continuing concert series at Strathmore. For more information about the National Philharmonic Orchestra, click here.
For more events at the Music Center at Strathmore, click here.