On January 23, Brian Ganz, Musician-in-Residence at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, played pieces selected from his concert at the Music Center Strathmore on February 1st with the theme of musical gardening. According to Ganz’s website, musical gardening—the title of Ganz’s performance— is a demonstration of the seeds of Frédéric Chopin’s genius at a young age which he carried with him as he journeyed into adulthood. To demonstrate the true extent of Chopin’s growth, Ganz has set out to play “every single note [Chopin] composed.” Chopin, a 19th century Polish artist was a mostly self-taught prodigy who created his own unique style by combining polish folk music and influences by J.S. Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Franz Schubert. Chopin was very popular in his day and many of his works are popular today.
As the sound of the final note began fading away like a mist slowly clearing to reveal the sky, Brian Ganz slowly and gracefully drew his hands away from the keys of the piano, and seemed to bask in the precious few seconds of complete silence as if it was that final moment of complete serenity that made the entire performance worth it. Then the crowd erupted with a standing ovation, like a tidal wave washing over an uninhabited island. This was the kind of magical performance that audiences have come to expect from Ganz, a demonstration of his near complete mastery of Chopin and his ability to transport the listener through his beautifully intense emotion, his vast array of tempos, styles, and volumes and his passion for the 19th century artist.
Ganz was not the only performer for the night, as his student, Michael Casey, also performed. Casey is currently a senior at St. Mary’s. Casey said he played “Waltz in C# minor Opus 64, number 2” by Chopin, composed “later in his career” — an example of a “more mature waltz by Chopin.” Casey talked about what it was like to share the stage with Ganz, saying “it felt great to be invited to be part of such an experience” and “share my passion with people who had come to see another very passionate performer play music.” Casey was calm and composed throughout the performance, seemingly not rattled by playing in front of Ganz. Casey mentioned that when he plays, he experiences an “altered state” and “is moved by the music,” but “it doesn’t seem to be as powerful as the moments that Brian experiences on stage with such regularity.”
Casey also remarked:“it seems that Brian is in his own world of what almost seems to be mystical ecstasy.” Casey went on to talk about how he enjoyed hearing Ganz play, saying “every piece he imbues with the same drive, the same love for the music, the same respect for the composer.” Not only did Casey talk about how Ganz’s skill in performing, but also how Ganz “does a lot of research” into the work that he prepares. For example, Casey mentioned how Ganz “helped edit an edition of Chopin’s preludes.”
In Casey’s opinion, what makes Chopin so effective in his era and today is that “he had a really powerful grasp of what moved people emotionally.” However, as for “what specifically” he did to move people, “that might remain a mystery.” What is not a mystery, though, is the masterful artistry of Brian Ganz in bringing the magic of Chopin to audiences all across the globe.