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

    October 2, 2022

    Detroit Symphony

    Orchestra Hall 

    CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 2

    with Jader Bignamini, conductor

    October 9, 2022

    The Schubert Club of Fairfield County

    Saxe Middle School Auditorium 

    recital

    October 13, 2022

    Boston Symphony

    Boston Symphony Hall

    MOZART Piano Concerto No. 18, K.456

    with Andrés Orozco-Estrada, conductor

    October 14, 2022

    Boston Symphony

    Boston Symphony Hall

    MOZART Piano Concerto No. 18, K.456

    with Andrés Orozco-Estrada, conductor

    October 15, 2022

    Boston Symphony

    Boston Symphony Hall

    MOZART Piano Concerto No. 18, K.456

    with Andrés Orozco-Estrada, conductor

    November 12, 2022

    San Diego Symphony

    The Rady Shell 

    BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 19

    with Rafael Payare, conductor

    November 13, 2022

    San Diego Symphony

    The Rady Shell 

    BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 19

    with Rafael Payare, conductor

    November 17, 2022

    San Francisco Symphony

    Davies Symphony Hall 

    BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1

    with Michael Tilson-Thomas, conductor

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