Beyond ‘Extreme Chopin’

It’s not so much “Extreme Chopin” that pianist Brian Ganz is dedicating himself to. That would seemingly involve performing the Polish master’s repertoire while riding a motorcycle or perhaps playing while the keyboard is on fire, Jerry Lee Lewis style.

By “Extreme,” Ganz, the accomplished musician and artist in residence at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, is attempting to perform the approximately 250 works of Frederic Chopin, left,  over the coming decade.

Ganz began his quest at the Music Center at Strathmore last year and continues there tonight, when he performs Two Polonaises, Op. 40; Fantaisie (“Fantasy”) in F minor, Op. 49; Impromptu No. 2 in F-sharp Major, Op. 36; Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-sharp minor, Op. 66 (Posthumous); Waltz in A-flat Major, Op.42; Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op. 61; Four Mazurkas, Op. 6; Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante, Op. 22.

Complete Chopin is really what he’s setting out to do, but we understand the importance of marketing something as seemingly benign as a classical piano performance as something enticingly Extreme.

There have already been festivals named Viva Vivaldi and the alliterative but ultimately watered down Mostly Mozart. Following Ganz’ example, we can likely look forward to other permutations of the classical catalog with the language of Monster Truck rallies.

Indeed, some such classical offerings could be easily paired with AC/DC album titles, such as “Highway to Helgar,”  “Debussy Done Dirt Cheap” and “For Those Who’re Kin to Bach, We Salute You.”

Of course there has already been “Lisztomania,” in fact, during the composer’s life; in film, by the late Ken Russell; and in a song by the French band Phoenix a few years back.

But the field is ripe for further future projects:

  • Hella Hyden: Concertos, masses, operas, you name it, from the Austrian “father of the symphony.”
  • Once Britten Twice Shy: Biting off a good chunk of this 20th century composer Benjamin Britten.
  • Bach in Black: Performing the music of Johann Sebastian entirely in shrouds.
  • Mo’ Mozart, Mo’ Problems: Since he composed more than 600 pieces, it will be increasingly difficult to attend every performance of this series.
  • Big Ballin’ Beethoven: The success and longevity of the German composer whose life eventually truly was a def jam.
  • Ultimate Janacek: Definitely Czech out this influential 20th century modernist composer.
  • The Bucket Liszt: What songs would you most like to hear by the Hungarian composer before you die?
  • Can You Handel It 2012: Operas, oratorios, concertos and the Messiah too.
  • Strauss on Steroids: You’ve never waltzed like this.
  • Dvorak, American Style: Bringing the New World Symphony to the new world that inspired it, nearly 120 years later.
  • Nuclear Schubert: A blast of the Austrian composer and his heavy tonnage of operas, symphonies and 600 songs.
  • Ready Bizet Go: How many of his operas can we perform until we get to “Carmen”?
  • Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Shostakovich: In addition to his compositions, an acting out of his battles with the USSR.
  • Have You Heard Schoenberg: A ton o’ atonality in this Austrian expressionist.
  • John Cage Match: Behind the chain-link fences, silence.
  • High Voltage Vivaldi: An electrifying approach to the “Four Seasons” guy in a festival that goes beyond “Viva.”

Brian Ganz: Extreme Chopin is at the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, Saturday (Feb. 11) at 8 p.m. $24-$46. www.nationalphilharmonic.org301-581-5100.

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