Emanuel Ax has performed at the forefront of international music culture since the early 1970s. He has won five Grammy Awards for Best Chamber Music performance with duo partner Yo-Yo Ma and other distinguished musicians such as Isaac Stern, Jaime Laredo, and Richard Stoltzman. That’s in addition to two Grammys for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance without an Orchestra in 1995 and 2004.
Despite this kind of public acceptance and universal acclaim, Ax remains dedicated to performing along emerging musicians, both in recital and in the recording studio. While he continues to work with Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, he’s also recorded Brahms’s piano trios with Ma and next-generation violinist Leonidas Kavakos as recently as 2017. The man’s formidable compound of technique and experience is more than matched by his evident humility and generosity as a performer and as a human. His journey from Ukraine to Manhattan and beyond has given Ax a life perspective that’s well suited to plumbing the depths of music’s most profound compositions.
For this CAMA Masterseries recital on Monday evening, January 13, at the Lobero Theatre, Ax will pay tribute to Ludwig van Beethoven with a fascinating and original program of the composer’s works for piano. The evening will open with, Beethoven’s exquisite Bagatelle in A Minor, Op. 25, “Für Elise.” Three Beethoven piano sonatas will follow, punctuated by two sets of his variations. In a clever move to reestablish Beethoven’s awareness of popular culture in the later 18th century, the second set will include his dazzling Five Variations on “Rule, Britannia,” WoO 79.
In this present moment of Boris Johnson and Brexit, I can think of no more satisfactory way to restore the dignity and historical context of a united Europe than through this musical portrait of England’s unique spirit as penned by Germany’s greatest artist.