`Maryland's Pianist' stays hard at work

Musician: A charity concert is just one of many projects keeping Annapolis' Brian Ganz busy on the keys.

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March 11, 2004|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

If anyone can be called "Maryland's Pianist," it would have to be Brian Ganz of Annapolis.

Two weeks ago, he graced Howard and Carroll counties with performances of Brahms' 2nd Piano Concerto with Maestro Jason Love's Columbia Orchestra, one in Columbia, the other in Westminster.

Ganz also can be found teaching and performing at two of Maryland's signature academic institutions: St. Mary's College in Southern Maryland and his alma mater, Baltimore's Peabody Institute.

And this Saturday evening, Ganz takes center stage at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Annapolis to perform works by Schumann, Chopin and Beethoven in a recital that will benefit several area service organizations, including the Light House Shelter and HAVEN/Our House, which provides assistance for people living with HIV and AIDS.

"I guess it's no accident that I do so much of my work here in Maryland," says Ganz, who grew up in Columbia. "I've been a Marylander all my life and love my home state dearly, plus I don't particularly enjoy leaving my family to travel. I feel blessed that things are thriving right here in my own back yard."

Ganz, who has appeared as a soloist with major orchestras nationally and internationally, will present several towering 19th-century masterpieces at Saturday's concert, including the passionate G-minor Ballade and 2nd Scherzo of Chopin.

"I've been utterly under Chopin's spell since I fell in love with music as a child," Ganz says. "Totally hooked."

The pianist is so enamored of the Polish master's works that he's in the midst of recording Chopin's complete oeuvre - "every note he ever wrote," Ganz says proudly - for Maestro Records of Rockville. The first installment in what's projected to be a 15-volume set, Chopin's 24 Preludes, is due out later this year.

Ganz also will play the nine "Waldszenen" (Forest Scenes), which Schumann penned in nine days in the winter of 1848-49.

"Not everyone plays them. Even Clara didn't like them very much," says Ganz of Schumann's wife, an extraordinary pianist who dedicated much of her life on the concert stage to perpetuating her husband's memory. "But I think they're among the most beautiful pieces ever written. The magic, the sense of nature's wonder they evoke, really speaks to me."

Rounding out the program will be the "Waldstein" Sonata, one of the most grandly symphonic of Beethoven's compendium of 32 sonatas for the piano.

Benefit concerts are nothing new for Ganz, whose humanitarian instincts are as strong as his musical ones.

"I'm one of those people who has trouble saying `no,' " Ganz says, with a laugh, "but the truth is that, for me, music takes on another dimension of beauty when it's done for a meaningful cause. I feel blessed in so many ways, it's the least I can do to offer something back."

The second concert in this season's Music for Peace and Justice series at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 333 Dubois Road in Annapolis, will feature Ganz performing works by Beethoven, Schumann and Chopin. Tickets for Saturday night's 7 p.m. concert are $20. Information: 410-266-8044 or www. uuca-md.org.

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