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

    July 7, 2022

    Tanglewood Music Festival

    Seiji Ozawa Hall

    Emanuel Ax, Paul Appleby, Lorelei Ensemble and Dover Quartet

    JANÁČEK The Diary of One Who Disappeared
    DVOŘÁK String Quartet No. 13 in G, Op. 106

    July 14, 2022

    Tanglewood Music Festival

    Seiji Ozawa Hall

    Emanuel Ax, Mckenzie Melemed, and Cantus

    JANÁČEK Piano Sonata, “1.X.1905, From the street…”
    DVOŘÁK Slavonic Dances for piano four-hands
    DVOŘÁK, BURLEIGH, and JANÁČEK Part-songs for men’s voices

    July 22, 2022

    Tanglewood Music Festival

    Koussevitzky Music Shed

    CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 2

    with Karina Canellakis, conductor and Boston Symphony Orchestra

    August 12, 2022

    Tanglewood Music Festival

    Koussevitzky Music Shed

    Emanuel Ax, Pamela Frank, Leonidas Kavakos, Antoine Tamestit and Yo-Yo Ma

    DVOŘÁK Terzetto in C for two violins and viola, Op. 74
    KAPRÁLOVÁ Two Ritournelles, for cello and piano, Op. 25
    JANÁČEK Fairy Tale, for cello and piano
    DVOŘÁK Piano Quintet No. 2 in A, Op. 81

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