This week's Crossover guest is one of the most well-known pianists in classical music - Emanuel Ax. Mr. Ax is a multiple Grammy winner in both solo and chamber performances, and has enjoyed a career that has spanned over four decades.
Emanuel Ax was born in Lviv in western Ukraine in the summer of 1948, and raised in Poland. His first piano teacher was his father, who started him on the keyboard at age 6. At 7, he started official studies at the Miodowa School in Warsaw, eventually winding up in Winnipeg, in Manitoba, Canada when the family moved there two years later. There he studied piano in school, and as a member of the Junior Music Club of Winnipeg.
In 1961, the family moved once again to New York City, where Mr. Ax began studies at Juilliard under Mieczyslaw Munz, eventually winning the Young Artists Award in 1973. He came to prominence in 1974, after winning the first Arthur Rubenstein International Piano Competition in Tel Aviv. He followed that in 1975 with the Michaels Award for Young Artists, and the Avery Fisher Prize in 1979. From there, he has embarked on a career that has taken him around the world, performing solo, and with some of the most prominent chamber ensembles and orchestras in classical music.
Since 1973, Mr. Ax has been Yo-Yo Ma's main duo recital partner. He also formed a quartet with Ma, Jaime Laredo and Issac Stern, releasing several CD's for Sony/CBS before Stern's death in 2001 adjourned the ensemble.
Emanuel Ax's latest CD is called, "Variations: Haydn, Beethoven and Schumann," on the Sony Classics label. The pianist points out that each of these sets of Variations is unusual, “each revolutionary in its own way.” He has also discovered that they go very well together in a concert program. Now, surely to the worldwide delight of fans of virtuoso classical piano performance, he presents them together on a recording as well. In the world of the pianist, says Mr. Ax, “we’re so centered on the sonata style. What’s nice sometimes is to look at other ways to deal with structure, other ways to deal with expression, other ways to deal with forming your thoughts.”
Listen for Jill's conversation with pianist Emanuel Ax, and music from his CD, "Variations: Haydn, Beethoven and Schumann," on Crossover, Saturday morning at 11:30 am on WRTI-FM, with an encore the following Friday evening at 7 pm on HD-2 and the All-Classical web stream at wrti.org.