, May 2012
The concert opened with Copland’s 1930 Piano Variations. Mr. Ax produced open chords that hung, slab-like in the air, alternating with difficult descending intervals as he explored the unique sound-world of this piece.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s Third Symphony (the ‘Eroica’) is a titan of the orchestral repertory…
This set of variations finds Beethoven taking that bass theme to its logical extremes, reworking it as a bright and perky match, a grim slow movement, and that jaw-dropping fugue where Beethoven shows his stunning mastery of the art of keyboard counterpoint. Mr. Ax navigated all of these pitfalls without flaw, driving the theme forward with his shoulders and playing Beethoven in a muscular, cheerful style that sparkled with vitality.
Mr. Ax showed tremendous technical skill in these works, whether crossing hands to play a tricky pattern of notes or careening down the keyboard in the more florid passages.
For this performance, Mr. Ax chose three works from a posthumous set of Etudes that were salvaged from Schumann’s papers by his friend and protegé Johannes Brahms. These works are more reflective than the earlier Etudes, and serve as contemplative rest stops on the long uphil journey. The summit and final variation finds Schumann turning to a theme from a now-obscure opera, Marschner’s Der Templer und die Judin, transforming it into a heroic carillon that celebrates the final transformation of the original theme into a triumph over adversity.
…Mr. Ax offered an engaging pair of Romantic waltzes: Franz Liszt’s dreamy Valse oubliée No. 1 and Chopin’s robust, beloved Grand Waltz in E♭. © 2012 Superconductor Read complete review