The American pianist Garrick Ohlsson is a Grammy award-winning concert pianist and recording artist. He became the first, and to this day only, American to win the Gold Medal at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1970. Earlier victories include First Prizes at the Busoni Competition in Italy (1966) and the Montréal Piano Competition in 1968. Garrick is admired for his wonderful sonority and virtuosic technique that always serves the music. He can be heard on a variety of labels including Arabesque, RCA Victor Red Seal, Angel, BMG, Delos, Hänssler, Nonesuch, Telarc, Hyperion and Virgin Classics.
The Seattle Times wrote on 13 January 2016, ‘What a sound! Ohlsson is famous for that great sonority, though he never seems to be working very hard to produce it. There are no histrionics, no flailing or thumping or grandstanding, just an incredible technique with razor-sharp accuracy, producing a sound so lush it almost glistens’.
Several years earlier, on 26 August 2012, The Financial Times wrote ‘Garrick Ohlsson, playing without a score, dignified the piece [Busoni's piano concerto] with his phenomenal pianism—never self-servingly virtuosic—and equally phenomenal memory’.
Ohlsson was born on 3 April 1948 in New York. He began his piano studies at the Westchester Conservatory of Music at the age of 8. At the age of 13, he entered The Juilliard School in New York City. Throughout his studies, he received instruction from Claudio Arrau, Olga Barabini, Tom Lishman, Sascha Gorodnitzki, Rosina Lhévinne and Irma Wolpe. Despite winning the first prizes at the Busoni and Montréal piano competitions in 1966 and 1968 respectively, it was not until his victory at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1970 that he gained international recognition and was able to launch his very successful career. Ohlsson returns regularly to tour Poland, where he has many fans.
Ohlsson is a highly celebrated interpreter of Frédéric Chopin’s music, in fact, he is considerd one of the world’s leading exponents of Chopin’s works. In addition to his mastery of Chopin’s music, Ohlsson has conquered most of the piano repertoire, ranging from the early works of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert to the Romantic repertoire and contemporary music, much of which has been written for and commissioned by him. His concerto repertoire alone contains more than 80 works. Recently he performed a variety of concerti, including nos. 3 and 4 by Rachmaninov, nos. 1 and 2 by Brahms, and the concerti of Beethoven, Mozart, Grieg and Copland. His performances took him all across the United States and Canada, and also to Liverpool and Madrid. In the spring, he made a US West Coast tour with Yuri Temirkanov and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic. He also appeared in recital performances in the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, in New York, New Orleans, Hawaii and in Prague.
Ohlsson performs frequently with symphony orchestras, especially in Australia, where he has performed with the orchestras of Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Hobart. He has also appeared with the New Zealand Symphony in Wellington and Auckland.
Further interests include chamber music. Ohlsson has collaborated with a number of string quartets, including the Takacs, Cleveland, Emerson and Tokyo string Quartets. He is also a founding member of the San Francisco-based FOG Trio, together with violinist Jorja Fleezanis and cellist Michael Grebanier. He is also fascinated by the voice, and has appeared in recital with singers such as Magda Olivero, Jessye Norman and Ewa Podleś.
Garrick Ohlsson has an extensive discography. In 2011, his recording of Rachmaninov’s Concerto no. 3 with the Atlanta Symphony and Robert Spano was released. In 2010, Hyperion released his complete recordings of the Brahms’ piano variations, following their 2008 re-release of Garrick’s 16-disc set of the Complete Works Chopin. Other recordings includeGoyescas by Enrique Granados, the music of Charles Tomlinson Griffes, Scriabin’s CompletePoèmes, Smetana’sCzech Dances and the ètudes of Debussy, Bartok and Prokofiev. Additionally, he released a 10-disc set of the complete Beethoven Sonatas for Bridge Records, of which vol. 3 was awarded a Grammy. Ohlsson’s most recent collaborations with Bridge Records include a recital of 20th-Century pieces Close Connections, and two albums with the works of Liszt and Scriabin.
Other recent recordings include the Brahms’ concerti and Tchaikovsky’s Concerto no. 2, which were both released as live recordings with the Melbourne and Sydney Symphonies. Ohlsson can also be heard on a July 2014 Decca release with the Czech Philharmonic in a live performance of Dvorak’s Piano Concerto. This appears as part of the Czech Philharmonic’s series of the complete symphonies and concertos of Dvorak.
In 2010, Ohlosson appeared in the documentary The Art of Chopin, which was created in recognition of the Chopin bicentenary and co-produced by television stations in Poland, France, Britain and China.
In addition to his early prizes in piano competitions, Ohlsson has received a Grammy Award. He also received the Avery Fisher Prize in 1994 and the University Musical Society Distinguished Artist Award in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1998. In 2014, he was awarded the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance from the Northwestern University Bienen School of Music.
Garrick Ohlsson currently resides in San Francisco.