Emanuel Ax salutes bicentennial of Chopin, Schumann in Shriver Hall recital
Alas, neither won, which was bad news for them, and good news for me -- it meant that there was no story to write and I had a decent chance to hear at least some of Ax's playing.
By the time I got to Shriver, intermission was starting. Rats. But there still were some great items left in this program devoted to 2010's bicentennial boys, Schumann and Chopin, and the pianist had plenty of great music-making left, too.
The two composers had a good deal in common -- relatively short lives, assorted ailments (physical and/or mental). And, musically speaking, an ability to take the piano into a whole new realm of color and expressive range, much of it packed into short forms. Most of the individual movements of, say, the "Fantasiestucke," Op. 12, by Schumann are only about three minutes long; Chopin's four Mazurkas, Op. 41, are that brief or briefer. But what worlds of poetry and feeling each creative burst opens up.
It's possible to find even more nuances in the
Those Mazurkas emerged a little less interestingly, though with unerring, patrician taste. Ax's affinity for the music of his fellow Pole shone through more vividly in his account of the "Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise." In less imaginative hands, both parts of this score can sound ever so slightly repetitive (dare I say tedious?), but Ax used delectable rhythmic freedom and a wide array of tone coloring to create an arresting performance. The surge of power at the end proved particularly effective.
And the A minor Waltz, Op. 34, No. 2, played as an encore, was beautifully delivered with what you might call a noble wistfulness.
BALTIMORE SUN FILE PHOTO