Performance Wednesday, April 27, 2016 | 8 PM

Emanuel Ax

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Emanuel Ax performs several of Beethoven’s most beloved works and some relative rarities. Beethoven put his unique stamp on the theme and variations form by assigning a new key to each variation in his Six Variations on an Original Theme, which provide interesting contrast to the more conservative but better-known variations of the “Appassionata” Sonata’s middle movement. Beethoven’s sonatas are the pinnacle of the form where unfettered expression and inspired melody are wed to an unsurpassed understanding of the piano’s physical capabilities. These attributes are especially evident in the moving “Pathétique” and stormy “Appassionata.”


  • Emanuel Ax, Piano


  • BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13, "Pathétique"
  • BEETHOVEN Six Variations on an Original Theme in F Major, Op. 34
  • BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 16 in G Major, Op. 31, No. 1
  • BEETHOVEN Polonaise in C Major, Op. 89
  • BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 57, "Appassionata"

  • Encore:
  • SCHUBERT "Der Müller und der Bach" from Die schöne Müllerin, D. 795 (arr. Liszt)

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.


  • Emanuel Ax

    Born in Poland, Emanuel Ax captured public attention in 1974 when he won the first Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition in Tel Aviv. In 1975, he won the Michaels Award of Young Concert Artists, followed four years later by the coveted Avery Fisher Prize.

    Three prominent duo collaborations will be carried through Mr. Ax's current season. Beginning with the release of sonatas by Fauré and R. Strauss on the Deutsche Grammophon label, Mr. Ax will partner with longtime friend and colleague Itzhak Perlman for concerts in Kansas City, Dallas, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and La Jolla, as well as at Ravinia. A return visit to Japan will be followed by concerts in Paris, Berlin, Rome, Tel Aviv, and Amsterdam. As an annual guest with the New York Philharmonic, he will perform Brahms with Alan Gilbert in addition to return visits to orchestras in Houston, Chicago, and Pittsburgh, as well as duo recitals in Philadelphia and New York with violinist Pamela Frank. Longstanding partner Yo-Yo Ma will join him in Norfolk, Washington, and New York, where they will program the complete Beethoven sonatas for cello and piano. Solo recitals in Tokyo, Arizona, Florida, Texas, and Boston culminate at Carnegie Hall this month as part of the Hall's 125th anniversary.

    The latter half of Mr. Ax's 2014-2015 season featured two projects, the first being his curated two-week Celebrate the Piano festival with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, in which multiple pianists gave a variety of performances to explore the many facets of the instrument. The second was a European tour with The Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin that began at Carnegie Hall. Mr. Ax also returned to the orchestras of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, St. Louis, Montreal, and Ottawa. In Europe, he performed with the Berliner Philharmoniker, followed by a tour to Vienna, Salzburg, Graz, and London in performances of Schubert's Winterreise with Simon Keenlyside, as well as appearances in Amsterdam and Paris with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under Bernard Haitink. Other European orchestras with which he performed include the London Symphony Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, and the national orchestras of Toulouse and Lyon.

    An exclusive Sony Classical recording artist since 1987, recent releases include Mendelssohn trios with Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, Strauss's Enoch Arden narrated by Patrick Stewart, and discs of two-piano music by Brahms and Rachmaninoff with Yefim Bronfman. Mr. Ax has received Grammy Awards for the second and third volumes of his cycle of Haydn's piano sonatas. He has also made a series of Grammy-winning recordings of the Beethoven and Brahms sonatas for cello and piano with Yo-Yo Ma. His other recordings include the concertos of Liszt and Schoenberg, three solo Brahms albums, an album of tangos by Astor Piazzolla, and the premiere recording of John Adams's Century Rolls with The Cleveland Orchestra for Nonesuch. In the 2004-2005 season, Mr. Ax contributed to an International Emmy Award-winning BBC documentary to commemorate the Holocaust, which aired on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. In 2013, his recording Variations received an ECHO Klassik award.

    In recent years, Mr. Ax has turned his attention toward the music of 20th-century composers, premiering works by John Adams, Christopher Rouse, Krzysztof Penderecki, Bright Sheng, and Melinda Wagner. Mr. Ax is also devoted to chamber music, and has worked regularly with such artists as Young Uck Kim, Cho-Liang Lin, Edgar Meyer, Peter Serkin, Jaime Laredo, and the late Isaac Stern.

    Mr. Ax is a Steinway Artist. He resides in New York City with his wife, pianist Yoko Nozaki. They have two children together, Joseph and Sarah. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and holds honorary doctorates of music from Yale and Columbia universities. For more information, visit

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At a Glance

With only one exception, all of the works on this evening’s program are clustered in the years around the turn of the 19th century, when Beethoven was slowly but surely transforming himself from a fire-breathing keyboard virtuoso to a no less boldly impetuous composer. Central to this metamorphosis were the “Pathétique” and “Appassionata” sonatas, which dazzled and perplexed contemporary audiences with their explosively dramatic character and concentrated economy of expression. Although mild-mannered by comparison, the G-Major Sonata plays equally fast and loose with convention, thwarting the listener’s expectations at every turn. Hardly less innovative are the dozens of theme-and-variation sets and shorter pieces that Beethoven produced throughout his career, both to restock his concert repertoire and to satisfy public demand. The Op. 34 Variations are notable for their unorthodox tonal scheme—Beethoven boasted that they represented an “entirely new manner of composing”while the jaunty Polonaise in C Major, written in 1814 for the dance-crazed Congress of Vienna, pours old wine into a sparkling new bottle. 
Program Notes
This performance is part of Keyboard Virtuosos I, and Beethoven I.