Ganz returns to Columbia and to Chopin

When Brian Ganz performs a solo recital for the Sundays at Three series on Sunday, Oct. 27, he won't have any trouble finding Christ Episcopal Church in Columbia. The classical pianist knows the local roads like he knows his way around a keyboard.

Ganz, 53, qualifies as a hometown favorite. He grew up in Columbia and likes to return for concerts. He has played for the Sundays at Three series before, and he also has appeared with the Columbia Orchestra.

Born in Takoma Park, Ganz moved to Columbia when he was 9 years old. Although he attended Wilde Lake High School, Ganz arguably qualifies as its most celebrated dropout. His precocious musical studies were going so well that he left high school at age 16 and concentrated on his piano playing. For the academic record, Ganz later received his equivalency diploma.

In terms of those classical studies, Ganz eventually went on to become a student at the Peabody Institute, where he studied with famed pianist Leon Fleisher. Ganz graduated from Peabody in 1993, and he's currently on the piano faculty there. His main teaching gig, though, has been at St. Mary's College of Maryland, where he has taught since 1986.

Living in Annapolis, he's able to make a reasonable commute down to St. Mary's College in southern Maryland and up to the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. For that matter, Howard County also is a short drive away.

His concerts in the region have included orchestral engagements with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Airplanes have taken him to concerts everywhere from Buffalo to Monte Carlo. Not bad for a Wilde Lake dropout.

His upcoming Sundays at Three concert will give a nice sense of his mastery of the classical repertory. Ganz will play Ludwig van Beethoven's Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 "Pathetique." He'll also play several selections by Claude Debussy: Images, Book 1 Reflets dans l'eau; and Preludes, Book 1 Nos. 5, 6 and 10.

However, it's the third composer on the program that promises to be the highlight of the concert. Ganz will play the following pieces by Frederic Chopin: Four Mazurkas, Op. 17; Two Nocturnes, Op. 48; and Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52.

Chopin always has been a composer close to Ganz's heart. Not only does he love to include Chopin in his programs, but in 2011 Ganz began a project to perform this 19th-century Polish composer's complete works with the National Philharmonic at the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda.

That's why it was such a treat for Ganz when he finally visited Chopin's Polish homeland for the first time several years ago. Ganz wrote on his website that the trip was a very emotional experience for him.

"I knew that Chopin was a national treasure, but had not known that he is THE national treasure," he wrote. "There are pictures of him everywhere, sometimes with no caption of any kind. He is truly the spirit of his country. The trip was very moving to me, and intensified my connection to the man and his music."

Brian Ganz performs Sunday, Oct. 27 at 3 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church, 6800 Oakland Mills Road in Columbia. Tickets are $15; free for those under 18 accompanied by an adult. Call 443-288-3179 or go to

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