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Pianist Brian Ganz Continues His “Extreme Chopin” Quest To Be The First to Perform All of the Composer’s Works With Jan. 9 Concert
Joined by Polish Soprano Iwona Sobotka They Will Perform Little Known Chopin Songs On Van Cliburn’s Steinway
(North Bethesda, MD, November 12 , 2015) – Pianist Brian Ganz, in partnership with the National Philharmonic at The Music Center at Strathmore, will highlight 10 of Chopin’s seldom heard songs in his sixth all-Chopin recital. Ganz will accompany Polish Soprano Iwona Sobotka [Evona Sobotka], in "Chopin: Bel Canto of the Piano,” as well as feature works for solo piano that capture the composer's gift for making the piano “sing,” including the great Sonata No. 3, Op. 58. Ganz’s “Extreme Chopin” quest to perform all the approximately 250 works of Chopin crosses beyond its mid-point at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9 at Strathmore. Ganz will be playing Van Cliburn’s Steinway as he also performs a little-known Cantabile, the first Impromptu and two Nocturnes. Children ages seven to 17 are admitted free. For more information or to purchase tickets visit nationalphilharmonic.org or call 301-581-5100.
"Chopin loved the human voice, and he made the piano sing as no other composer has before or since," said Ganz. "I'll begin the program with a few solo works that highlight that ability, like the rarely heard 'Cantabile,' which means 'in a singing tone.' It's a tiny gem, even shorter than most of the composer's preludes.”
Ganz will highlight both the Steinway and Chopin in the first half of his concert by continuing with the Impromptu, Op. 29, and a selection of nocturnes. The highlight of the first half, according to Ganz, will be “the incredible voice of Iwona Sobotka, who will bring 10 of Chopin’s songs to life.”
The second half of the concert will feature Ganz’s performance of Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op 58. One of only four sonatas composed by Chopin, Sonata No. 3 was written when he was at his peak of creativity. Musicologist Tadeusz Zielinski calls it Chopin’s “deepest” work.
"The general perception is that Chopin was more comfortable writing miniatures than substantial works in sonata form, but I think that's a misperception," Ganz noted. "He made the sonata form work for him and wrote several masterpieces in the genre.”
Ganz uses a gardening metaphor to illustrate his point. "Many of Chopin's ideas arrive 'fully grown,’” he explained. “I think that's why he's such a master of miniatures. But he also had the genius to pace a larger work with musical 'seeds' that develop slowly.
“A sonata by definition takes time to work out, grow, unfold,” Ganz continued. “The 3rd Sonata is a masterpiece of pacing. It's also music of indescribable beauty, because it's Chopin."
Chopin’s songs are set to Polish poems, mostly written by the composer's contemporaries, including the composer's friend Stefan Witwicki and the poet generally considered the greatest of his generation in Poland, Adam Mickiewicz. The poems explore elements of Romanticism including romantic love, longing, beauty and the power of nature, and include a rather bawdy drinking song.
The translation of the first stanza of that song follows:
Hulanka (Drinking Song) Op. 74, No. 4 (Translation by Ted Mirecki on the basis of Bernard Jacobson, “The Songs” in The Chopin Companion, ed. Alan Walker, Norton Library, New York 1973)
Little barmaid, little waitress,
what are you doing? Stop!
There you’re laughing and here
you’re pouring mead on my jacket.
I’ll not forgive, I’ll kiss you all over!
What eyes, what eyebrows,
what little feet, what small white teeth,
you set my blood on fire!
Other selections include: Życzenie (A Maiden's Wish) Op. 74, No. 1; Ślicznyż Chłopiec (Handsome lad) Op. 74, No. 8; Hulanka (Drinking Song) Op. 74, No. 4; Precz z moich oczu (Out of My Sight!) Op. 74, No. 6; Poseł (The Messenger) Op. 74, No. 7; Moja pieszczotka (My Darling) Op. 74, No. 12; Pierścień (The Ring) Op. 74, No. 14; Smutna Rzeka (Melancholy River) Op. 74, No. 3, and Piosnka litewska (Lithuanian Song) Op. 74, No. 16.
“It’s exciting to bring these lyrical bel canto-style songs to Washington audiences as they are so seldom performed,” said Ganz, who added that Chopin never published these works. “And I am thrilled that Iwona will be the one to do it. The beauty and depth of her voice brought me to tears the first time I heard her sing. In fact, I could hardly get through our first rehearsal, the experience was so emotional.”
Sobotka achieved instant international acclaim as the Grand Prix winner of the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition of Belgium in 2004. The renowned soprano has performed all over Europe, in the Americas and Japan, in such prestigious venues as the Berlin Philharmonie, the Konzerthaus in Vienna, Salle Pleyel in Paris, Royal Albert Hall in London and and Suntory Hall in Tokyo.
Equally at home on the concert and the opera stage, Sobotka also is widely acknowledged for her interpretations of Polish vocal repertoire – in particular the works of Karol Szymanowski. In 2004, she contributed to a complete collection of his songs released by the Dutch label Channel Classics and was distinguished by National Academy of Recording Arts in Poland with the Fryderyk Award, named for Frederic Chopin and comparable to the American Grammys, for the most outstanding recording of Polish music.
Widely regarded as one of the leading pianists of his generation, Ganz has appeared as soloist with such orchestras as the St. Louis Symphony, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the Baltimore Symphony, the National Philharmonic, the National Symphony and the City of London Sinfonia, and has performed with such conductors as Leonard Slatkin, Marin Alsop, Mstislav Rostropovich and Piotr Gajewski.
Ganz is oft quoted as saying, “Chopin’s music is the language of my soul, and I have dreamed since childhood of someday performing all of his works.” His quest began in earnest in 2011.
Ganz's capacity “Extreme Chopin” concerts have received glowing reviews. An audience of about 2,000 attended the first in the series, after which the Washington Post wrote: “Brian Ganz was masterly in his first installment of the complete works.” After the third sold out recital in 2013, Washington Post reviewer Grace Jean wrote, “It’s easy to see why so many Washingtonians flocked to hear pianist Brian Ganz…in his hands, the rarely performed Trois Ecossaises, Op.72, No. 3, became effervescent light beams.”
Future “Extreme Chopin” recitals will include all the chamber music and remaining songs as well as the complete solo works, including each version of every mazurka and waltz. Ganz will also play such obscure and overlooked works as the little Fugue in A minor, the two bourrées and the variation Chopin wrote for Hexameron, a rarely heard work initiated by Chopin's friend, composer and pianist Franz Liszt, and completed by multiple composers.
Ganz will perform Chopin’s orchestral works with the National Philharmonic, whose music director, Piotr Gajewski, has embraced the pianist’s ambitious endeavor wholeheartedly. “Brian may be the first pianist to play all of Chopin’s works – not only because of his great love for the composer, but also because of his intense connection with his audience,” Gajewski said, adding that Ganz sometimes brings his entire collection of Chopin’s music to a performance so that he can accept requests from the audience.
Perhaps the first pianist to perform all Chopin’s works, Ganz noted, “that significance is eclipsed by my excitement in sharing works that even lovers of Chopin may never have heard. There are so many works of great beauty and emotional power, but there are also quite a few buried treasures that deserve to be heard. It’s fascinating to hear, for example, the different authentic versions that exist of some very well known works. There are marvelous surprises in store for Chopin lovers.”
Ganz is participating in a regional tour showcasing the personal Steinway & Sons grand piano of one of classical music’s most revered artists, Van Cliburn, sponsored by Steinway Piano Gallery of Washington, D.C.
The recital will include the following Chopin compositions: Cantabile in B-Flat Major, Op. Posth; Impromptu No. 1 in A-Flat Major, Op.29; Nocturne in C Minor, Op. Posth; Nocturne in F Major, Op. 15, No.1; Songs from Op. 74 and Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op 58.
To purchase tickets to Brian Ganz’s sixth installment of his “Extreme Chopin” performance at the Music Center at Strathmore on Jan. 9, visit nationalphilharmonic.org or call the Strathmore ticket office at (301) 581-5100. More information on Ganz is available at www.brianganz.com. Tickets for kids 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. Parking is free.