Piano Sonata in A, Op.2/2
Fantasy in C, Op.17
Piano Sonata in F minor, Op.57 (Appassionata)
Emanuel Ax (piano)
Reviewed by: Robert Matthew-Walker
Reviewed: 11 May, 2008
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Since winning the first Arthur Rubinstein competition in Israel in 1974, Emanuel Ax has consolidated his international reputation as one of the finest pianists before the public, to the extent that a sold-out audience at Wigmore Hall – standing-room only – was to be expected. In the event, this commanding pianist, the possessor of a really mature musical mind, did not disappoint.
His programme of Beethoven and Schumann was subtly put together, demonstrating this pianist’s quality as an outstanding player of the music of both composers. The early A major Sonata of Beethoven was marvellously played, with a fine grasp of the humour that may be discerned throughout the work, and a superb elucidation of the Largo appassionato – the first example in Beethoven’s output of the kind of expressive slow movement of which he, surely, was the originator.
Schumann’s C major Fantasy is a more difficult piece to hang together – at least, structurally – but Ax was most successful in concentrating upon this unique aspect of the piece, without forgoing the work’s more expressive or dramatically contrasting qualities. Papillons, on the whole, seemed rather less successful, in that the early Romanticism that permeates the score was surely too greatly contrasted in terms of dynamics.
But Beethoven’s ‘Appassionata’ Sonata, which ended the programme, received a quite superb interpretation, a performance of much distinction and deeply poetic, dramatic instinct throughout.