Emanuel Ax Plays Bach and Schoenberg

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Emanuel Ax, pianist Emanuel Ax, pianist (Lisa Marie Mazzucco)

Alan Gilbert leads the New York Philharmonic in a performance of J.S. Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No. 1 and Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto with Emanuel Ax as soloist. The program concludes with Mozart’s Symphony No. 36, Linz.

Program playlist:
J.S. Bach: Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052.
Schoenberg: Piano Concerto
Mozart:  Symphony No. 36, Linz

Comments [1]

Les from Miami, Florida

Hearing this concert via the Philharmonic website, I'm reminded this is the concert of 4 October 2012. This is an example of Mr. Gilbert's artistry at its best as regards programming, choice of soloist and choice of work to make public comment upon. The J.S. Bach d minor Keyboard Concerto was a delight in the balance between the soloist and string orchestra. The Adagio was more an Andante by my lights, with tasteful ornamentation provided by Mr. Ax. The two outer Allegro movements' tempi felt altogether right. I wondered about Mr. Ax's decision to end the first movement by sounding the note D rather than with the d minor triad, however. Whether the edition used and/or the bowings selected for the first violins by Mr. Gilbert or the concertmaster were the reason, some slurred notes in the first movement had a "romantic" feel about them, and though I wasn't disturbed by them at all, some purists may well have been. The Schoenberg Piano Concerto, though not commissioned by Oscar Levant, was his suggestion to the composer. Though in one movement, four demarcations can be heard, namely, the first la"ndler-like Andante, followed by a scherzo, followed by an adagio, concluding with a rondo. Not being grounded enough in the music and never having seen the score, I have nothing but my admiration of and wonder in the playing of Mr. Ax and the Orchestra. The premiere of this concerto by Eduard Steuermann and Leopold Stokowski conducting the NBC Symphony in 1944 caused Arturo Toscanini, who hated 12-tone composition, to leave the Orchestra in protest, to return later, of course. Hearing the comments of Mr. Ax and Mr. Gilbert, I was better prepared to hear the work with an open mind and with greater appreciation for its structure and many beauties than ever before. The tone row employed is E, B flat, D, F, E, C, F sharp, A flat, D flat, A, B, G, with the notes A and B repeated before the G, and it's played in the right hand at the outset. The Mozart "Linz" Symphony benefitted from fleet first and last movements--- with all repeats taken---and from the antiphonal violin seating plan. I felt the introduction was a bit too fast for my taste, as I similarly felt regarding the Minuet. Outside of grace notes being played too fast rather than as passing tones, there was little to find fault with on the whole, save the tendency displayed during a sequence that ends a phrase to increase the dynamic (volume level), a practice that I found rather off-putting. This concert, along with the complete survey of Nielsen's symphonies, the "Joan of Arc at the Stake" and Dallapiccola's "Il Prigioniero" performances are far and away the best of Mr. Gilbert's orchestra tenure thus far.

Feb. 15 2015 05:47 PM

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