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Emanuel Ax

Discussion in 'Pianists' started by pianolady, Jan 11, 2010.

  1. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I saw him play a concert in Chicago today. He played all Chopin and Schumann in commemoration of both composers' 200th birthdays this year. The program was as follows:

    Chopin - Polonaise-Fantasy in A-flat Major, Op. 61
    Chopin - Two Mazurkas, C Major Op. 24, no. 2 and C minor Op. 56, no. 3
    Schumann - Fantasy in C Major, Op. 17
    Schumann - Phantasiestücke Op. 12
    Chopin - Mazurkas, Op. 41 - all four
    Chopin - Andante spianato & Grande polonaise brillante Op. 22

    I have never seen Ax play in person before, so I was looking forward to this concert - also because I knew ahead of time what he was scheduled to play. First thing that struck me when he began to play was his hand movements. He does this sort of jerky up and down thing before he hits on the keys - almost like he's aiming first - or like a tic. It wasn't all the time but it was fairly often. Not sure if that's normal for him or not - it sure didn't affect his playing. I thought he played with much grace and eloquence. The soft tones he produced were beautiful and at the same time deep. That may not make sense - it's like some chords could cut right through you even though they were played pianissimo. And he played fast and tiny notes so clean and delicately - I can only wish I could do half as well. Really, I'm thinking that maybe I should start practicing scales and arpeggios again!

    Obviously, I enjoyed all the Chopin! I didn't hear any slips until he got to the Op. 41 Mazurkas. There was one fairly big clunker in one of them and some slips in the no. 1, which I know was hard for me to play when I recorded it, so thank you Mr. Ax - I feel a little better. But the Andante spianato & Grande polonaise brillante was...well...brilliant! A long time ago I became infatuated with that piece, like I did the Barcarolle, and thought I would learn it. Ha - forget it. It's too hard for me. But it's fun to actually 'see' someone play it live. Ax hit all those jumps, the octave runs, the trills, the arpeggios running everywhere - amazing! And amazing that people can actually do that! (wow - I'm still feeling it.)

    The Schumann was very nice too. Of course I have heard the Op. 12 pieces many times (I like some of them - will have to put them on my 'to do' list), but I had not listened carefully to the Fantasy Op. 17 very much. Today I did, and I must say that I really loved it. Such interesting themes, harmonies, ideas, all of it...just beautiful!

    He played only one encore piece (he had already played a ton of music though, so I'll forgive him :lol: ), and at the time I knew the piece. Now, my stupid brain has forgotten it. I know it was Chopin, and I thought it was another mazurka, but now I'm not sure because I just looked through my mazurka book and did not find it. So sorry, maybe it'll come to me later.

    Ax seems like a friendly man - he smiled at the audience often. He wore a regular black suit with a dark blue shirt and purple-ish tie. Great music today!
     
  2. nathanscoleman

    nathanscoleman New Member Piano Society Artist

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    **continuing to live vicariously through Monica** :D

    However, Jenifer stayed home with the kids and I went to the Live-at-the-Met Opera in our local movie theatre last week. It was the Tales of Hoffmann, which I thoroughly enjoyed ... although the last act was rather racy ... some hot lesbian action going on. It's my first one of those, I definitely think I'm gonna try another of them soon! Sorry for the off-topic! :oops:

    Emmanuel Ax is a lovely pianist ... I think his recording of the Rach cello sonata w/ yoyoma is completely breathtaking. yummy yummy
     
  3. bclever

    bclever New Member

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    Excellent review Monica, I just wanted to jump in and say that those "tics" you mentioned are
    actually him counting the rests. From my seats you can see his lips moving during those
    pauses.

    And Nathan, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Met broadcasts, unfortunately this season they have all
    fallen on the same weekend as the piano concerts in Chicago. I have to get laundry done
    sometime!
     
  4. nathanscoleman

    nathanscoleman New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Did you notice that they're giving an encore performance of the met broadcasts a few weeks later on a Wednesday night? That was when I got to see it ... I'm trying to find a babysitter for this wkend so I can go watch the sexy Carmen with my honey ... as much as I loved the last one, it's just not the same when you're by yourself!!
     
  5. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Oh, that's interesting! Thanks for clarifying that, Brian. Still sort of an unusual technique...

    @Nathan - I'll be seeing Ax perform again with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a couple months. They're doing Chopin's Piano Concerto no. 2. I can't wait! Meanwhile, I have yet to attend any of those Live at the Met (at the movie theater) performances. I mean to, but just never have had the right time. But I usually attend local things like this by myself - my husband is not that much into classical music as I am. But I bet if I tell him about that scene you described in the Hoffmann opera, he'd probably come. :wink:

    @Brian again - do you know what Ax played for his encore? It's driving me nuts that I can't figure it out.
     
  6. bclever

    bclever New Member

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    Chopin: Waltz Op. 34, No. 2
     
  7. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thank you, Brian! That explains why it was not in my Mazurka book. :lol:

    And I'm so embarrased - after the concert while I was getting my coat, an older woman asked me if I knew what the encore piece was. I replied, "It was a Chopin Mazurka. I'm not sure which one, but I know all the Mazurkas and that was one of them." Gahhh - I hope I don't see that woman again! :oops: :oops:
     

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