Concert Review: Emanuel Ax and Milwaukee Symphony

Concert Review: Emanuel Ax and Milwaukee Symphony

By Elaine Schmidt

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

23 September 2016

Friday’s Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concert was a feast of soulful music making.

The orchestra, playing under the baton of Music Director Edo de Waart, opened the morning’s program with a feisty, character-filled performance of Richard Strauss’ “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks.”

De Waart and the orchestra gave Strauss’ programmatic piece a vivid, completely engaging, performance. From principal horn player Matthew Annin’s ringing horn lines to some beautifully executed, turn-on-a-dime shifts in character over the course of the piece, their performance was a highly evocative experience — a bit like hearing a film score and getting to imagine the scenes it should accompany.

Soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen, who appeared the MSO’s “The Marriage of Figaro” performances last weekend, took the stage with a deeply stirring, beautifully crafted performance of Strauss’ “Four Last Songs.”

Willis-Sørensen mixed a warm, flexible sound with nimble, easy technical work, and fluid, expressive musical deliveries, supported beautifully by de Waart and the orchestra.

Pianist Emanuel Ax, who filled the program’s second half with Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2, apparently is built to play Brahms. From a gentle singing sound to declamatory, sometimes almost defiant musical statements, his was a performance filled with expressive intent and nuance, and tremendous musical character.

Part of the joy of hearing Ax’s performance was watching him listen to and interact with de Waart and the orchestra. He nodded and moved to their music when he wasn’t playing, trading ideas and statements with them when he was.

MSO principal cellist Susan Babini gave an exquisite performance of the long, lyrical cello lines that are featured in the piece’s third movement.

When Ax returned to the stage to answer a standing ovation, he brought along a piece of music. He motioned for Babini to come forward, and the two offered an achingly beautiful rendition of the third movement of Chopin’s Cello Sonata.

Both players moved gracefully from melody to accompaniment and back again throughout the sonata, picking up each other’s musical ideas like old friends finishing each other’s sentences, and giving a moving performance one hated to see come to an end.

Leave a Reply

NY Phiharmonic

Artist-in-Residence: Emanuel Ax 2012/13.
Read more »

WATCH

Next Concerts

    October 20, 2018

    Duke Performances

    Baldwin Auditorium

    Durham, NC

    BACH: Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major, BWV 825
    SCHOENBERG: Six Little Piano Pieces, op. 19
    SCHUMANN: Fantasiestücke, op. 12
    RAVEL: Valses nobles et sentimentales
    CHOPIN: Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante, op. 22
    CHOPIN: Three Mazurkas, op. 59

    October 23, 2018

    Charleston Gaillard Center

    Gaillard Center

    Charleston, SC

     

    October 25, 2018

    Civic Music Association of Des Moines

    Sheslow Auditorium

    Des Moines, IA

    BACH: Partita No. 1 in B flat
    SCHOENBERG: Piano Pieces Op. 19
    SCHUMANN: Fantasiestuecke
    RAVEL: Valses Nobles et Sentimentales
    CHOPIN: 3 Mazurkas, Andante Spianato

    October 28, 2018

    Celebrity Series of Boston

    Symphony Hall

    Boston, MA

    BACH: Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major, BWV825
    SCHOENBERG: Six Little Piano Pieces, Opus 19
    SCHUMANN: Fantasiestücke, Opus 12
    RAVEL: Valses Nobles et Sentimentales
    CHOPIN: Mazurkas TBD
    CHOPIN: Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise Brillante, Opus 22

    November 3, 2018

    New World Symphony

    Adrienne Arsht Center

    Miami, FL

    WAGNER: Overture to The Flying Dutchman
    BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 1
    SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 5

    November 9, 2018

    Detroit Symphony

    Orchestra Hall

    Detroit, MI

    BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 1
    NORMAN: Play

    November 10, 2018

    Detroit Symphony

    Orchestra Hall

    Detroit, MI

    BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 1
    NORMAN: Play

    November 15, 2018

    The Cleveland Orchestra

    Severance Hall

    Cleveland, OH

    KABELÁČ – Mystery of Time
    STRAVINSKY – Capriccio (for piano and orchestra)
    SHOSTAKOVICH – Symphony No. 5

Audio Player


Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4
Brahms: Music For 2 Pianos
Haydn: Piano Sonatas
Liszt: Piano Sonata in B Minor
Mendelssohn: Piano Trios
Strauss: Enoch Arden

LISTEN

Video Player

Extract from masterclass given by Emanuel Ax on Beethoven Piano Sonatas and Variations. The student is Nicolas Van Poucke. The full masterclass is available on DVD from www.masterclassfoundation.org

WATCH

Twitter