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  • Carnegie Hall Presents
  • ZH Zankel Hall
  • SA/PS Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
  • REW Resnick Education Wing
  • WRH Weill Recital Hall

Emanuel Ax, Piano
Leonidas Kavakos, Violin
Yo-Yo Ma, Cello

Thursday, February 22, 2018 8 PM Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
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Leonidas Kavakos, Emanuel Ax, and Yo-Yo Ma by Shane McCauley
Brahms’s piano trios trace his development from a youthful disciple of Schumann to a mature, fully developed master. Over the years, his youthful ardor gives way to autumnal nostalgia, but his magnificent melodies, splashes of gentle humor, and muscular power are constants. The love of Brahms brings pianist Emanuel Ax, violinist Leonidas Kavakos, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma together to form a super trio.


Emanuel Ax, Piano
Leonidas Kavakos, Violin
Yo-Yo Ma, Cello


BRAHMS Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major
BRAHMS Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor
BRAHMS Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major

SCHUBERT Andante un poco mosso from Piano Trio No. 1 in B-flat Major, D. 898

Event Duration

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

At a Glance

Brahms’s three canonical piano trios are among the crown jewels in the chamber music treasury. Although their gestations span a period of three and a half decades, all three works date—in their final forms—back to the 1880s and reflect Brahms’s mature mastery of the genre. (A fourth trio, the seldom-heard Trio in A Major, written around 1853 and designated “opus posthumous,” has been tentatively attributed to Brahms as well.) Throughout his life, the notoriously self-critical composer struggled to reconcile the essentially percussive nature of the piano with the sustained, singing voices of the violin, viola, and cello. Even his great Piano Quintet in F Minor was originally conceived for an all-string ensemble and exists in an alternate version for two pianos.

Brahms was never happy with the B-Major Trio that he wrote in the early 1850s, around the time Schumann famously hailed him in print as a “genius.” In 1889, with two more piano trios under his belt, he jumped at the chance to substantially revise and tighten his youthfully exuberant score; this explains why his “first” piano trio comes last on tonight’s program. In contrast, Brahms rated his Trio No. 2 in C Major as one of his finest works and teasingly asked his publisher for a bonus on the strength of the slow movement, a characteristically masterful set of variations on a sultry, Gypsy-flavored theme. Both this work and the slightly later C-Minor Trio combine Romantic passion with economy of expression.


Emanuel Ax

Born in modern-day Lvov, Poland, Emanuel Ax moved to Winnipeg, Canada, with his family when he was a young boy. He is a winner of the Young Concert Artists Competition and Michaels Award, Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition, and Avery Fisher Prize.

In partnership with conductor David Robertson, Mr. Ax began the current season with six Mozart concertos performed over two weeks in St. Louis, repeating the project in Sydney in February. Following the gala opening of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s season, he returns to the orchestras of Cleveland, New York, San Francisco, Boston, Houston, Ottawa, Toronto, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Hall for a recital to conclude the season. In Europe, he can be heard in Stockholm, Vienna, Paris, and London, and on tour with the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Mr. Ax—a Sony Classical exclusive recording artist since 1987—also tours across the US this winter with colleagues Leonidas Kavakos and Yo-Yo Ma in support of the recent release of their recording of Brahms’s piano trios for the label.

Always a committed exponent of contemporary composers, with works written for him by John Adams, Christopher Rouse, Krzysztof Penderecki, Bright Sheng, and Melinda Wagner already in his repertoire, he has most recently added to this list HK Gruber’s Piano Concerto and Samuel Adams’s Impromptus. A frequent and dedicated chamber music partner, Mr. Ax has regularly worked with such artists as Young Uck Kim, Cho-Liang Lin, Edgar Meyer, Peter Serkin, Jaime Laredo, and the late Isaac Stern.

Mr. Ax resides in New York City with his wife, pianist Yoko Nozaki, with whom he has two children. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and holds honorary doctorates in music from Yale and Columbia universities.

Leonidas Kavakos

Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos is recognized as an artist of rare quality, known for his virtuosity, superb musicianship, and the integrity of his playing. By age 21, Mr. Kavakos had won three major competitions: the 1985 Sibelius Violin Competition, and 1988 Paganini and Naumburg international violin competitions. He was the first musician to record the original Sibelius Violin Concerto of 1903–1904, which won the 1991 Gramophone Award for Concerto of the Year.

Over the years, Mr. Kavakos has developed close relationships with some of the most prestigious orchestras and conductors. In 2017–2018, he is artist-in-residence at both Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw and Vienna’s Musikverein, and tours North America with Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax, performing trios by Brahms and Schubert.

An exclusive artist with Decca Classics, Mr. Kavakos’s recent recordings include Virtuoso (2016), Brahms’s violin sonatas with Yuja Wang (2014), Brahms’s Violin Concerto with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Riccardo Chailly (2013), and Beethoven’s complete violin sonatas with Enrico Pace (2013). His recording with Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma of Brahms’s piano trios was released on Sony Classical in September 2017.

Mr. Kavakos is the 2014 Gramophone Artist of the Year and 2017 winner of the Léonie Sonning Music Prize. He plays the 1734 “Willemotte” Stradivarius violin.

Yo-Yo Ma

Yo-Yo Ma’s multifaceted career is testament to his enduring belief in culture’s power to generate trust and understanding. Whether performing new or familiar works from the cello repertoire, collaborating with communities and institutions to explore culture’s social impact, or engaging with unexpected musical forms, Mr. Ma strives to foster connections that stimulate the imagination and reinforce our humanity.

Mr. Ma founded the organization Silkroad to promote cross-cultural performance and collaborations where education, business, and the arts come together to transform the world. He is a member of the Silkroad Ensemble, which tours annually and for which more than 80 works have been commissioned. Mr. Ma also serves as the Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Negaunee Music Institute. His work focuses on the transformative power of music in individuals’ lives, and increasing the number and variety of opportunities for audiences to experience music in their communities.

Mr. Ma was born in Paris to Chinese parents who later moved the family to New York. He began to study cello at the age of four, attended The Juilliard School, and, in 1976, graduated from Harvard University. He has received numerous awards, among them the Avery Fisher Prize (1978), National Medal of Arts (2001), and Presidential Medal of Freedom (2010). In 2011, Mr. Ma was recognized as a Kennedy Center Honoree. He recently joined the Aspen Institute Board of Trustees. He has performed for eight American presidents, most recently at the invitation of President Barack Obama on the occasion of the 56th inaugural ceremony.

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