A memorable performance by Emanuel Ax and the Philadelphians

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Ricordanza
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A memorable performance by Emanuel Ax and the Philadelphians

Post by Ricordanza » Thu Mar 12, 2015 10:15 am

Once in a while, there is a perfect union of music and performance—a great piece of music receives the type of performance that leaves a lasting impression on the concertgoer’s memory. Such a performance took place on Saturday night, March 7, when Emanuel Ax was the soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, led by music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, in a performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

This is a piece that is often overshadowed by its two more frequently played successor concertos, the sublime No. 4 and the mighty Emperor, No. 5. Indeed, No. 3 starts off in an undistinguished manner, with its rather stilted and clumsy opening theme first presented by the orchestra in an overlong introduction, then, after three scales, simply repeated by the piano. But as Beethoven often demonstrated (for example, the Diabelli Variations), a great melody is not a prerequisite to a great piece. As the first movement unfolds, with a second theme of greater appeal, and then an outpouring of musical ideas, pianistic flourishes, and a heroic cadenza, the wonder of the work is fully revealed. And then there’s the slow middle movement, one of the most beautiful in all of the classical era concerto repertory. The lively third movement is instantly appealing from the very first measure.

What made this performance so special? It’s hard to say, but I just had the sense throughout the entire work of complete rapport and collaboration between Yannick and the orchestra and Emanuel Ax, whose name can be found in the dictionary defining the term “Musician.” There are concertos with greater virtuoso thrills, and those are the kind that generally spark the greatest audience reaction, but the kind of loud, standing ovation that Ax and the orchestra received showed that I was not alone in considering this a highlight performance of the season, or perhaps, many seasons.

The bookends to this performance were pleasing as well, but not quite at the level of the concerto performance. The evening began with Haydn’s Symphony No. 92 in G Major, the “Oxford.” One of a series written by Haydn during his extended stay in England, it’s a work of great appeal and, at times, surprising intensity.

Ralph Vaughan Williams, a pre-eminent English composer of the first half of the 20th Century, contributed some astonishingly beautiful works to the orchestral repertory, including The Lark Ascending and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. But on Saturday night, we heard a very different Vaughan Williams. The Symphony No. 4 is an uncompromising, modernist work. Although composed in 1935, the concerts on March 6 and 7 marked the first time it was performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra. (The symphony was also scheduled to be performed on Thursday night, March 5, but not enough musicians made it through the snowstorm to play this work.) When I say “uncompromising,” I mean that it is not the kind of piece that one would describe, on first hearing (as it was for me) as “beautiful” or even “engaging.” The descriptive words that come to mind are “striking” and “intense.” The symphony was not intended by its composer to reflect any kind of program, but I have to believe, listening to the mixture of fury and despair that mark a good portion of this symphony, that it reflects the context of its turbulent time, when much of Europe was succumbing to a wave of fascism and moving closer to war. The work is not without its moments of relief, including the mysterious and edgy slow second movement, and the vigorous march in the final movement. But even that march has a sardonic undercurrent, disturbing the surface triumphalism of the music. Even on first hearing, I could sense how Yannick shaped a performance that was both nuanced and powerful, but to appreciate it more fully, I’d like to hear this work again.

John F
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Re: A memorable performance by Emanuel Ax and the Philadelph

Post by John F » Thu Mar 12, 2015 12:07 pm

That's a great program.
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arepo
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Re: A memorable performance by Emanuel Ax and the Philadelph

Post by arepo » Sat Mar 14, 2015 4:00 pm

A fine program and , as usual. a superb review.

Sorry I missed this one.


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Re: A memorable performance by Emanuel Ax and the Philadelph

Post by Lance » Sun Mar 22, 2015 6:54 pm

Excellent review. Thank you!
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jbuck919
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Re: A memorable performance by Emanuel Ax and the Philadelph

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Jun 08, 2015 6:41 pm

The Philadelphia Orchestra will be at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center later in the summer and I vaguely recall that Emanuel Ax is appearing with them. You'd think that I'd be excited about this and post details of the upcoming program, but frankly, I can't cope with a SPAC concert starting at 7:30 or 8:00, even though I'm there all the time during the day to substitute teach. The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is going to appear there with a couple of matinees, and I hope to be able to report on them when they roll around. (Another consideration, of course, is that the symphony concerts are outdoors, while the chamber music concerts have a completely enclosed separate venue.)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Ricordanza
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Re: A memorable performance by Emanuel Ax and the Philadelph

Post by Ricordanza » Tue Jun 09, 2015 5:30 am

jbuck919 wrote:The Philadelphia Orchestra will be at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center later in the summer and I vaguely recall that Emanuel Ax is appearing with them. You'd think that I'd be excited about this and post details of the upcoming program, but frankly, I can't cope with a SPAC concert starting at 7:30 or 8:00, even though I'm there all the time during the day to substitute teach.
John, I assume that the problem is driving home late at night. My suggestion? Splurge for a hotel/motel room nearby for the night.

lennygoran
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Re: A memorable performance by Emanuel Ax and the Philadelph

Post by lennygoran » Tue Jun 09, 2015 6:23 am

Ricordanza wrote: John, I assume that the problem is driving home late at night. My suggestion? Splurge for a hotel/motel room nearby for the night.
We like to walk through the town of Saratoga but in August motel prices shoot way up because of the track. :( I see Ax is appearing Aug 12 but Yannick Nézet-Séguin isn't conducting.

http://www.spac.org/events/2015/08/12/p ... -orchestra

Regards, Len

Cristian Măcelaru Conductor
Emanuel Ax Piano

BEETHOVEN Overture, Coriolan
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica")

jbuck919
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Re: A memorable performance by Emanuel Ax and the Philadelph

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:37 pm

lennygoran wrote:
Ricordanza wrote: John, I assume that the problem is driving home late at night. My suggestion? Splurge for a hotel/motel room nearby for the night.
We like to walk through the town of Saratoga but in August motel prices shoot way up because of the track. :( I see Ax is appearing Aug 12 but Yannick Nézet-Séguin isn't conducting.

http://www.spac.org/events/2015/08/12/p ... -orchestra

Regards, Len

Cristian Măcelaru Conductor
Emanuel Ax Piano

BEETHOVEN Overture, Coriolan
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica")
I assure you that I can manage the drive, which is only 45 minutes covering 30 miles, but it is mostly along a dull country road and I don't care to do it after 10:00 at night. As the saying goes, I could do it in my sleep, but I'm afraid that if I tried, that's exactly what would happen. :) However, I might make an exception for the program Lenny reported. I'm going in to the box office tomorrow for the Chamber Music Society tickets to save the ridiculous 10.00 service fee and if there's still a seat under the covered area, maybe I'll go for it. (I would not sit on the lawn.)

Some of the Philadelphians run a music camp in the nearby town of Lake Luzerne to which they attach a world-class chamber music series running Mondays in July and August. Those shed concerts also start at 7:30, but I will attend them because they really are for all intents and purposes in the neighborhood.

And now I'm off to attend a 7:30 organ recital in Glens Falls. It being one of the longest days of the year helps somewhat, too. :)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

lennygoran
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Re: A memorable performance by Emanuel Ax and the Philadelph

Post by lennygoran » Wed Jun 17, 2015 5:33 am

jbuck919 wrote: However, I might make an exception for the program Lenny reported. I'm going in to the box office tomorrow for the Chamber Music Society tickets to save the ridiculous 10.00 service fee and if there's still a seat under the covered area, maybe I'll go for it. (I would not sit on the lawn.)
Some of the Philadelphians run a music camp in the nearby town of Lake Luzerne
I never heard of Lake Luzerne but I mapped it to get a perspective-looks nice and is considered part of the Adirondack Park-that park is I believe larger than Yellowstone?

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Lake+Lu ... 242353!3e0

Would you go all the way to Saratoga to save the $10-what would you do if they are out of the seats you want-I guess you could call first and ask them to hold the desired seats for you? Regards, Len

jbuck919
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Re: A memorable performance by Emanuel Ax and the Philadelph

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Jun 17, 2015 6:22 am

lennygoran wrote:
jbuck919 wrote: However, I might make an exception for the program Lenny reported. I'm going in to the box office tomorrow for the Chamber Music Society tickets to save the ridiculous 10.00 service fee and if there's still a seat under the covered area, maybe I'll go for it. (I would not sit on the lawn.)
Some of the Philadelphians run a music camp in the nearby town of Lake Luzerne
I never heard of Lake Luzerne but I mapped it to get a perspective-looks nice and is considered part of the Adirondack Park-that park is I believe larger than Yellowstone?

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Lake+Lu ... 242353!3e0

Would you go all the way to Saratoga to save the $10-what would you do if they are out of the seats you want-I guess you could call first and ask them to hold the desired seats for you? Regards, Len
Gentlemen, Saratoga is my back yard in country terms. I have multiple reasons for making the trip. In the first place, the online info says that the chamber music programs are still wide open. I'll inquire about the other when I get there. I'm saving a cool $10 a ticket this way as opposed to a couple of dolllars for gas for the whole trip. While I'm there I'll take in the farmer's market, the Italian grocery (an extreme rarity around here), and the crepe restaurant on Broadway for a late lunch. Next Monday I'm back there for a meeting of the regional Southern Adirondack Library System in my capacity as president of the Board of Trustees of the Stony Creek Free Library. I'll get multiple things accomplished on that trip, too.

Having said that, I got home last night from that organ recital in similarly distanced Glens Falls at about 10:15 and I was ready to drop. (My review will shortly appear in another thread.) I know this does not make any sense, but I have more stamina for an evening performance at Lincoln Center such as we recently took in, or even for Die Walkuere (international character set not working at the moment) which was the last thing I saw at the Met. So much for the leisurely pace of country life.

Yes, Len, Lake Luzerne is in the Adirondack Park, and so is Stony Creek, and so I believe is Lake George (but not Glens Falls or Saratoga). Communities that existed when the park borders were drawn have grandfather status governed by multiple regulations. I actually live in the most populated, civilized corner of the park (thank goodness).

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

lennygoran
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Re: A memorable performance by Emanuel Ax and the Philadelph

Post by lennygoran » Wed Jun 17, 2015 7:54 am

jbuck919 wrote: I have multiple reasons for making the trip. In the first place, the online info says that the chamber music programs are still wide open. ... While I'm there I'll take in the farmer's market, the Italian grocery (an extreme rarity around here), and the crepe restaurant on Broadway for a late lunch. ..
Yes, Len, Lake Luzerne is in the Adirondack Park, and so is Stony Creek, and so I believe is Lake George (but not Glens Falls or Saratoga). Communities that existed when the park borders were drawn have grandfather status governed by multiple regulations. I actually live in the most populated, civilized corner of the park (thank goodness).
The things you plan on doing sound very appealing to me! Wish I could find an official list of the towns but I couldn't. :(

"About 130,000 people live in the park year-round in 103 towns and villages."

Regards, Len

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