Emanuel Ax in recital

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Emanuel Ax in recital

Post by Ricordanza » Sat Apr 22, 2017 5:38 pm

I have heard Emanuel Ax in recital three previous times, so, in some ways, I know what to expect. But that doesn’t mean his recital on Wednesday evening, April 19, was either predictable or dull. Let me explain.

First of all, there are no distractions at a recital by this pianist. His appearance is unremarkable. He was dressed in a black suit, black shirt and black tie, and he sits quite still at the piano, with no flamboyant movements or facial gestures. He has one characteristic move, which looks like a “double take” when he strikes a note at the beginning of a passage. But other than this quirk, which is neither distracting nor annoying, there is nothing to detract from the music.

And then there’s his playing. Individual, well thought out, expressive, technically pristine, but never overcooked or self-indulgent.

Finally, Ax often adds something new and different to the program, in the form of some unfamiliar contemporary music.

The first half of the program was certainly familiar music. Ax began the evening with polished and impeccable performances of Schubert’s second set of four Impromptus, D. 935. He followed this with even more familiar music, namely, four Impromptus by Chopin: Op. 29, Op. 36, Op. 51, and Op. 66. Indeed, the last of these made its way into the popular culture of an older generation, when the theme from the middle section was used for the song, “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows.” Ax played all these works with loving care, but never crossed the line into cheap sentimentality.

The unfamiliar music was a piece commissioned by Ax. Entitled Impromptu No. 2: After Schubert, it is a work by Samuel Adams, son of composer John Adams. Despite using thematic material “lifted” (the composer’s word) from Schubert’s final Sonata, D. 960, Samuel Adams’ piece hardly resembles a Schubert Impromptu. Rather, it is a highly energetic moto perpetuo with the subtle, incremental shifts one hears in works by his father and other “minimalists.” However, even if the title is misleading, it’s an appealing and intriguing piece, thanks to a brilliant performance by Emanuel Ax.

The concluding work on the listed program was one of Chopin’s most substantial works, the Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58. Ax’ performance captured the passion and poetry of the first three movements. Ax began the fourth and final movement at a somewhat deliberate and restrained pace. Was he being cautious in anticipation of the treacherous technical demands of this movement? Perhaps, but as he continued to play, the benefits of his approach became clear to this listener. Without getting lost in a blizzard of notes or a race to the finish, the bold and grand character of this music was clearly heard.

The audience responded enthusiastically, and Ax rewarded us with one superb encore, the Chopin Nocturne in F Sharp Major, Op. 15, No. 2.

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Re: Emanuel Ax in recital

Post by arepo » Mon Apr 24, 2017 10:20 am


Your usual fine review. Ax remains one of my most satisfying pianists, always tasteful, technically immaculate and consistently almost flawless. The Chopin sonata was memorable.
I always look forward to your in-depth analysis.

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