Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Brief Program Notes To Tonight's New York Philharmonic Live Television Broadcast On PBS; And Correction To Published Emanuel Ax Biography


Egmont Overture (1810)

Beethoven was drawn to the nobility of the title character of Goethe’s play Egmont, for which he composed the incidental music, including this stirring overture. The music portrays the tragic Count Egmont (1522-1568), who, after a political trial, is executed for opposing the Spanish persecution of Protestants in Flanders. Having glimpsed freedom triumphant in a vision, Egmont dies a hero to his people. Composer and poet never drew close, though they respected each other “professionally.” Beethoven admired Goethe “with the greatest reverence and with an unutterably deep feeling for his glorious creations.” Goethe, in turn, wrote that Beethoven’s “talent astonished me prodigiously, but he is, unfortunately, a wholly untamed person….Yet he is to be excused and much pitied, for he has lost his hearing, which is, perhaps, of less injury to his art than to his social relations.”


Piano Concerto No. 10, K. 365 (1779 or 1780)

Wolfgang wasn’t the only fortepiano prodigy in the Mozart family; there was also his sister Nannerl. Together they performed this “double” concerto—the first of this genre—in Salzburg in late 1780. When Mozart left Salzburg for Vienna the following year to make his fortune, the demand for new works was more than he could keep up with; so he reached back to earlier works, including this concerto. A young and not so subtly amorous patroness and pupil, Josephine von Auernhammer, was eager for a concerto to play with her teacher. He wrote to his father, “Fräulein von Auernhammer has been pestering me something awful about the double concerto.” Though they performed this brilliant and challenging work together in 1781, he rebuffed her advances (or so he wrote to his father), letting her down firmly but gently. He was, after all, dependent on the kindness of patrons.


Symphony No. 3, “Eroica” (1804)

Beethoven’s furious retraction of the dedication to Napoleon of his Third Symphony is well-known. His friend Ferdinand Ries recounts: “I was the first to bring him the intelligence that Bonaparte had proclaimed himself emperor, whereupon [Beethoven] flew into a rage and cried out: ‘Is he then, too, nothing more than an ordinary human being? Now he, too, will trample on all the rights of man and indulge only in his ambition. He will exalt himself above all others, become a tyrant!’ Beethoven went to the table, took hold of the symphony’s title page by the top, tore it in two, and threw it on the floor. The first page was rewritten and only then did the symphony receive the title Sinfonica eroica, Composed to Celebrate the Memory of a Great Man.” The symphony’s extraordinary scope, its bold harmonies, the dramatic funeral march in the second movement, a score resounding with majesty and drama—all proclaim that a new era in music had begun.



EMANUEL AX, piano, born in 1948 [or 1949] in Lvov, Poland [actually, in 1948 or 1949 Lvov was in Ukraine, the Soviet Union. On November 22, 1918, Polish forces attacked the Jewish Cemetery in Lwow (Lemberg) within two weeks of the armistice of November 11, 1918, ending World War I, and marking the downfall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire].

One of the most popular and respected pianists in the world, Emanuel Ax was born in Lvov Poland in 1948 [or 1949] [actually, in 1948 or 1949 Lvov was in Ukraine, the Soviet Union. On November 22, 1918, Polish forces attacked the Jewish Cemetery in Lwow (Lemberg)] started his piano career in Warsaw when he was just 6 years old. While still a boy, in 1961, his family moved to Winnipeg, Canada. Thanks to the sponsorship of the Boys Clubs of America he enrolled in the pre-college division of Juilliard, and was soon winning prize after prize, including the Young Concert Artists Award, the first Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition in 1974, and the coveted Avery Fisher Prize in 1979. His poetic lyricism and brilliant technique allow him to tackle all parts of the piano repertoire, from Mozart to premieres of today’s music. In recent seasons he has given three world premieres: John Adams’s “Century Rolls,” Christopher Rouse’s “Seeing,” and Bright Sheng’s “Red Silk Dance.” Like all musicians, he enjoys the comradeship of chamber music and is a regular on the festival circuit: Tanglewood, Aspen, Blossom, Hollywood Bowl, Mostly Mozart, and Ravinia. Numerous Grammy Awards attest to his achievements. He and his piano partner at these concerts, Yefim Bronfman (see below), have recorded music for two pianos by Rachmaninoff and Brahms to great acclaim and toured North America with a duo-recital program.

Emanuel Ax lives in New York with his wife, pianist Yoko Nazaki, and their children Joseph and Sarah.

YEFIM BRONFMAN, piano, born in 1958 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan [the Soviet Union].

Millions of people who may never have heard Yefim Bronfman in the concert hall did hear him performing Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 at their local cineplex on the soundtrack of Disney’s “Fantasia 2000,” and later also live at gala screenings of the film in New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, and Los Angeles. In 2000/2001, on the occasion of Lorin Maazel’s 70th birthday, he joined our maestro for a series of chamber music recitals at Carnegie Hall and in Berlin, London, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Paris, Salzburg, and Vienna.

Yefim Bronfman left his native Uzbekistan for Israel in 1973, where he auditioned for the Israel Philharmonic at the age of 15, the orchestra with which he then toured America under Leonard Bernstein and Zubin Mehta. With the help of Isaac Stern and the America-Israel Foundation he immigrated to the United States in 1976 and studied with piano virtuosos Rudolf Serkin, Rudolf Firkusny, William Masselos, and Leon Fleisher. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1989 and returned to Russia in 1991 in a series of acclaimed recitals with Isaac Stern. Among his many distinctions are the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize (1991), one of the highest honors given to American instrumentalists, and a Grammy in 1997 for Best Instrumental Soloist for his recording of Bartók’s three piano concertos.

At these Philharmonic concerts he collaborates again with Emanuel Ax with whom he performed a series of duo-recital programs in 2001/2002 and with whom he also recorded Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and Suites for 2 Pianos, and Brahms works for two pianos. About one of their recitals The New York Times raved: “sheer excitement, exemplary music making.”

Source: New York Philharmonic Web-site; and Wikipedia entries on Emanual Ax and World War I for correction.

Extended program notes to this evenings New York Philharmonic opening night concert are available at this link.

Both of tonight's featured soloists, Emanuel Ax (above) and Yefim Bronfman, were born into Jewish families in territories of the Former Soviet Union. Mr Ax was not born in Lvov, Poland, as stated in several bios; including those of the New York Philharmonic and Sony Classics.

Photo credit: Denison University. With thanks.


Post a Comment

<< Home