The May 2023 issue of Gramophone Magazine features a must-see four-page feature on the Grand Teton Music Festival and the orchestra’s recording of the Beethoven Piano Concertos with Garrick Ohlsson and Sir Donald Runnicles. See the piece, titled “Climbing Everest in the Rockies” by Thomas May on Page 23!
“To perform all five Beethoven piano concertos as a cycle is to ascend one of the repertoire’s proverbial Everest-like peaks. … a winning combination of factors sets apart this new contender by Garrick Ohlsson with Sir Donald Runnicles and the Grand Teton Music Festival… an inspired collaboration of strong-willed personalities.… Combine all that with the superb quality of the engineering from the Reference Recordings label and this cycle, which the GTMF has chosen for its first commercial release, is in a class of its own.
The deeply grounded partnership between Ohlsson and Runnicles results in performances powered by a bracing, dynamic complementarity. It allows for distinctive priorities from Runnicles that at the same time enhance Ohlsson’s unwavering but always changing role as protagonist.…‘
But what may come as a surprise is the degree of rapport between Ohlsson and the GTMF Orchestra. It sounds like they’ve been playing together for years – not merely twice before. Runnicles, whose close bond with these musicians has long been a reliable source of strength and even identiy for the festival itself, returns to the image of a great singer working with an orchestra. ‘What informs his playing is not just phenomenal virtuosity and a phenomenal brain, but his love of singing. He’s trying to sound like the greatest singer in the world.’
Beethoven’s slow movements, in particular, are thus transformed into ‘glorious, long arias, with a continuity to the phrasing.…
‘With Garrick, I have the sense that you’re not even listening to him any more but you’re just listening to Beethoven,’ says Muenzer. He seemed to hit the sweet spot of allowing us to imagine that this is what Beethoven heard in his mind, even though we know modern instruments are being played. If this were the last recording I made, I would be thrilled. It happens to comprise the truest arrows, all of which hit the bullseye in every respect.’”—Thomas May, Gramophone