Brian Ganz is just past the halfway mark in his quest to perform all of Chopins 250 works on piano. Tonight’s edition titled Chopin: Recollections of Home will feature songs for voice and piano, original Polish poetry, and a song for an unaccompanied singer performed by mezzo-soprano Magdalena Wor.
Recollections of Home are songs Chopin wrote about Poland after leaving to Paris only never to return. It was if he was visiting home through song.
Shortly into his quest, Brian Ganz realized he had to update his goal. Unbeknownst to Brian, Chopin had written a song for an unaccompanied singer. Brian admits he isn’t much of a singer and had to change his goal. Now he’s performing Chopin’s complete works for piano. That didn’t stop the piece from being performed tonight by Magdalena Wor. She sang Mazurka in G major for Vaclav Hanka. It was exquisite! Brain describes Magdalena’s voice as beauty and perfection, he stated that it is his goal as a pianist to match that sound if but only a hand full of times during his career. That is a remarkable compliment that only reveals the type of character Ganz is. Magdalena has been a marquee addition to the series ever since she filled in for Iwona Sobotka during the 2016 performance Chopin, Bel Canto of the Piano.
Tonight’s program included: Three Marzurkas Op 56, Songs for Voice and Piano, Four Mazurkas Op. 41, Polonaise in B-flat minor Op. Posth. (“Adieu”), Polonaise in E-flat minor Op. 26 No. 2, Etude in E major Op. 10 No. 3, and Allegro de Concert Op. 46.
The songs for voice and piano included: Wiosna Op. 74 No. 2, Melodia Op. 74 No. 9, Gdzie Lubi Op. 74 No. 5, Mazur: Jakież kwiaty, jakie wianki Op Posth, Niema Czego Trzeba Op. 74 No. 13, Wojak Op. 74 No. 10, Leci Liście z Drzewa Op 74 No.17, Czary Op. Posth, Narzeczony Op. 74 No. 15, Dumka Op. Posth.
Magdalena put forth two outstanding performances with Narzeczony, and Dumka. Those songs are so sad yet powerful. That is such an interesting and uncommon expression, powerful sadness. Magdalena’s voice reached your core, it was like beautiful severity.
Brian explained the Chopin never published any of his works so their titles are sort of interpretations from bookkeepers and scholars.
Brian uses an approach called “musical gardening” when putting together his programs. He refers to Chopins earlier pieces as seeds that bloomed into flowers that would be later works of the same genre. Brian Ganz described it as musical time-lapsed photography. This was apparent in the two Polonaise songs paired together.
I recognize the concept Ganz was illustrating but I enjoyed Polonaise in B-flat minor Op. Posth. (“Adieu”) just as much if not even more than Polonaise in E-flat minor Op. 26 No. 2. Polonaise in B-flat minor is so interestingly quick and subtle. It displays Chopin’s genius and why he was considered a prodigy even from youth, it’s no wonder Chopin’s final conservatory report read “Chopin F., third-year student, exceptional talent, musical genius.” It was outstanding hearing both Polonaises performed from a pianist as exceptional as Brian Ganz. His fingers fluttered across the keyboard like a bird being freed from a cage.
For the finale, he performed Allegro de Concert Op. 46. It was chosen as a celebration for 100 years of Polish independence which took place November 11th. Although Chopin never lived long enough to see an independent Poland proclaimed this would be the song he would play if it ever happened. Ganz noted its celebratory mood but also noted it’s quirkiness. An unusual song he has grown to love. It was an excellent song for a finale. It graduates from a celebration into a fireworks display on piano. A good show stopper. The pace was a bit odd but the talent and execution was remarkable.
As an encore, they performed Smutna Rzeka or Sad River. It’s the story of a mother who has buried all seven of her daughters and sings sad songs by their graves. Magdalena’s voice was rich and heartfelt, enough to draw tears. It was a striking end to a program shrouded with pride, celebration, and grief. This concert was an opportunity to hear a variety of songs seldom performed together live. It takes a unique pairing of talent to accomplish this feat. This was, by all means, a truly outstanding performance.