Review: Emanuel Ax Weathers Beethoven’s Emotional Storms at Carnegie Hall

Review: Emanuel Ax Weathers Beethoven’s Emotional Storms at Carnegie Hall

By

The New York Times

28 April 2016

Describing a pianist’s performance as unhinged might seem like an unlikely compliment. But the adjective could be applied in the most flattering terms to Emanuel Ax’s engrossing interpretation of Beethoven’s “Pathétique”Sonata on Wednesday evening at Carnegie Hall.

The sonata was included on an all-Beethoven lineup, with two popular sonatas bookending three lesser-known pieces. Mr. Ax brought demonic power to the “Pathétique,” which opened the program. In the opening section, he revealed with particularly vivid colors the contrast between crashing low chords and the yearning melody in the upper register. His clarity of line was admirable in the tumultuous thickets of the first movement; the ethereal Adagio unfolded with a gorgeous simplicity; and he imbued the third-movement Rondo with seething tension.

After the tumult of the “Pathétique,” Mr. Ax offered a lighthearted contrast, a delightful and delicately shaded interpretation of the Six Variations on an Original Theme in F (Op. 34). Beethoven wrote the “Pathétique” during what historians have recognized as his early period, when he was already challenging the precedent of Viennese Classicism established by composers like Mozart and Haydn. He continued to break new ground in his middle period, when he composed the “Appassionata” Sonata. Mr. Ax brought passion and power in admirable measure to his performance, which concluded the program on a stormy note.

Beethoven’s Sonata No. 16 in G is perhaps the least often programmed work of his Opus 31 set, which includes the famous “Tempest” Sonata. It received an insightful and elegant performance here. Mr. Ax played the runs in the first movement with sparkling energy; the trills of the Adagio unfolded with leisurely grace, and the concluding Rondo with both strength and charm.

The second half of the program included an unfamiliar short bonbon: thePolonaise in C (Op. 89), which Beethoven wrote in 1814 for festivities at theCongress of Vienna and dedicated to a visiting czarina. After all the dramatic Beethovenian moods, Mr. Ax offered a gentle encore: an introverted rendition of Schubert’s “Der Müller und der Bach,” in Liszt’s transcription.

Leave a Reply

NY Phiharmonic

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

WATCH

Next Concerts

    March 16, 2019

    Harriman-Jewell Series

    Folly Theater

    Kansas City, MO

     

    March 19, 2019

    Philadelphia Chamber Music Society

    Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center

    Philadelphia, PA

    March 22, 2019

    Amelia Island Chamber Music

    Amelia Island Plantation Chapel

    Fernandina Beach, FL

    March 24, 2019

    Spivey Hall at Clayton State University

    Spivey Hall

    Morrow, GA

    March 27, 2019

    Carnegie Hall

    Carnegie Hall

    New York, NY

    March 31, 2019

    Performances Santa Fe

    Lensic Performing Arts Center

    Santa Fe, NM

    April 2, 2019

    University of Washington

    Meany Center

    Seattle, WA

    BACH: Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major, BWV 825
    SCHOENBERG: Piano Pieces, Op. 19
    SCHUMANN: Fantasiestücke, Op. 12
    RAVEL: Valses nobles et sentimentales
    CHOPIN: Three Mazurkas, and Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillant in E-flat Major, Op.22

    April 6, 2019

    Oregon Symphony

    Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

    Portland, OR

    AUBER: Fra Diavolo Overture
    STRAVINSKY: Capriccio
    HAYDN: Piano Concerto in D Major
    CORIGLIANO: Symphony No. 1, “Of Rage and Remembrance”

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