Listeners who already know Garrick Ohlsson's recordings of Chopin and Beethoven will not need to be persuaded to try this 2010 disc of the Bronxville-born pianist's recordings of works by Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, and Mussorgsky. They will already know exactly what to expect: eye-popping virtuosity, jaw-dropping velocity, and an approach to interpretation that might be fairly characterized as mind-blowing. Rachmaninov's edgy and angular Variations on a Theme of Corelli is sharp-cornered and hard-driven, Prokofiev's brutal and boisterous Second Sonata is extremely vigorous and exceedingly muscular, and Mussorgsky's moody and magnificent Pictures at an Exhibition is given the wide-screen, full-color treatment in a performance that seems somehow to get bigger as it proceeds. For some, Ohlsson's bone-crushing account of Prokofiev's opening Allegro and piano-busting reading of Mussorgsky's closing "Great Gates of Kiev" may seem too little about the music and too much about the pianist's physical strength. For others, Ohlsson's performances will either seduce or bludgeon them into submission.
The Rachmaninov and Prokofiev recordings were made under studio conditions in Purchase, NY, in 2008, and the Mussorgsky was recorded live at the 1974 Prague Spring Festival. The former have clear, crisp sound, with no extraneous noise, while the latter has close, tight sound, with the occasional audience noise, including rapturous applause at the end.