The common cliché “he’s really into music” was definitely demonstrated accurate for St. Mary’s Artist-in-Residence Brian Ganz as he performed “Chopin Discoveries II” on Thursday, Oct. 4th. This was Ganz’s second installment of his piano concert series exploring classical composer Frederic Chopin’s works here at St. Mary’s.
Ganz broke decorum of typical classical concerts with his informative descriptions of the pieces, which he delivered beforehand. It was a creative way to introduce the pieces from the perspective of the performer so that the audience was able to experience them as he himself did due to his carefully worded analysis of the moods and themes of the various works.
Ganz “fell in love” with Frederic Chopin’s work at a young age after discovering some old Chopin LPs in his childhood home. He went on to “devour” all Chopin music he could get his hands on, and played them over and over again until they were “worn to death,” similar to the way children today worship CDs of drastically different performers, such as Justin Bieber. Ganz’s love for Chopin is expressed through his unique performing style; he reacts to every sound that he produces out of the piano with his body. During quiet passages, he bends over the keyboard as if comforting a sad child, but during dramatic, loud passages he seems to nearly jump from his seat. Indeed, several audience members visibly started in their seats in response to his frequent half-jumps out of his! He sighed during mournful moments; his facial expression being quite conducive to the emotion Chopin intended of his works.
It is true that as an audience member, one feels a very personal connection to what is going on onstage. When the passage is quiet, one can’t help but hold his or her breath. The emotion and visual imagery of some of his faster passages is so realistic that one can’t help but imagine that it is a horse race not a piano that he or she is hearing! Other times, during the “Polonaise in C minor, Op. 40, No.2,” and “Etude from Op. 10: No. 4 in C-sharp minor,” one sees a clear contrast between works; the first being very somber, the second light and airy, reminiscent of a day at the carnival, polar opposites. Chopin was a master of composition as can be seen in the last piece performed: “Heroic” Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53. Ganz pointed out that on purpose, Chopin hid the compositional devices so that it seems nearly impossible to find the rhythm. Some passages had very strict marching sounds, while others were slower, emphasized by Ganz leaning back on the piano bench, only to start up suddenly twitching his shoulders as a brisker tempo takes hold. This kind of abrupt transition seemed a bit unsettling at times, but it enriched the visual experience to see a performer such as Ganz so in love with his material.
Ganz admits to enjoying his performances immensely. On his favorite aspect of performing he states that a “synergy happens with new people. New ideas occur at the moment.” First-year student Helena Klassen praised Ganz’s take on Chopin saying it was “really cool and interesting how he moved with his pieces.”