Role models of greatness.
Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
A 2003 profile in the New York Times by James Oestreich mentioned that Ohlsson lives in San Francisco with his companion, Robert Guter, an historic preservationist. While Ohlsson doesn’t like being labelled solely as a gay pianist, he doesn’t pretend to be otherwise. He is out and proud, and “I’m no coward,” he says.
No coward, indeed. As proof, late last year Ohlsson released Close Connections, a disc on which most of the music was written by gay male composers. I received this album as a Christmas gift, and I’m embarrassed that I’m just now listening to it (sorry, Rob!). It contains Triptych (1969), a solo piano piece by Louis Weingarden (1943-1989) written for Ohlsson. Weingarden also wrote a piano concerto (1974) for Ohlsson, and that composition was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1977. Weingarden and Ohlsson were good friends, even roommates for a time. Also on this disc is Handwork, a piece for solo piano commissioned by Ohlsson in 1986, written by gay composer William Hibbard (1939-1989). Robert Helps (1928-2001), another gay composer, is represented by the solo piano composition “Shall We Dance”.
He has long championed the finger-busting piano compositions of Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924), going back to his days with his teacher Frida van Dieren, whom Ohlsson called ''a great-grand-pupil” of Busoni. ''I played my first Busoni when I was 12,'' he said. ''So I grew up with the legend.'' Mr. Ohlsson went on to win the Busoni Competition in Bolzano, Italy, in 1966, at 18. He brags that playing the Busoni piano concerto (a staggering 70 mintes in length) is no harder than playing the Brahms first piano concerto (D-minor) twice.
Here we have Ohlsson’s performance of Chopin’s Etude #1, Op. 10, from the time of his winning the International Frederick Chopin Competition in Warsaw (1970):