Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

Pianist Emanuel Ax sparkles with the Madison Symphony Orchestra
Isthmus Daily Page – Madison,WI,USA

Madison reviewer likes the player, if not necessarily the repertoire…

For its March 28-30 concerts in Overture Hall, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s mandatory guest soloist is pianist Emanuel Ax, a fine musician always welcome. Would that his vehicle had been better chosen.

I must admit straightway that Chopin’s two piano concertos have long ago worn badly for me. They were composed as necessary calling cards to launch Chopin’s performing career. Chopin knew he was no master of the orchestra or of large-scale forms. His short concerted works are more satisfactory because they do not have to be fitted into classical multi-movement molds. It is significant that his only subsequent ventures into such established-form territory were his Cello Sonata and his three Piano Sonatas, which are at least written on a more congenially intimate scale.

With mediocre thematic material and bland orchestral writing, the two concertos might easily have faded among the dozens of such diffident ventures that cluttered the second quarter of the 19th century. (Anyone for Kalkbrenner, Henselt, Moscheles, or their ilk?) The one saving grace for Chopin’s two is their solo piano writing, which set the composer on course to create thereafter some of the greatest music ever written for his instrument.

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MSO matches superb musicianship, wise choices
The Capital Times – Madison,WI,USA

And now, an opposing viewpoint as to the merits of the Chopin concerto….

Ax, a perennial Madison favorite, performed Chopin’s Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra in F minor, Op. 21. The pianist’s superlative technique, tempered with his elegant style, delivered a wonderfully emotive, technically perfect performance that characterized the definition of great music. No other performer this season has captured the brilliance of a composition to the same degree as Ax.

The Concerto No. 2, written when Chopin was 19, captures the composer’s sentiment at the height of romantic youth. Ax’s technical mastery explores those passages benefiting from development, while controlling the composer’s occasional excesses. The result of those efforts brought the audience to its feet, a show of appreciation rewarded by an impromptu encore, Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 7, No. 21. Similar musical themes came forward from the solo piano performance, which was every bit as compelling as the longer orchestral work.

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Chopin in the Blogosphere:

A Thoroughly Blessed Life
By Bill

A moving eulogy to a Boise piano teacher and her motivational techniques:

My next lesson came. I started playing the Mozart, and Mildred interrupted me and said, “Let me hear the Chopin.” I was shocked because it was the last lesson we would have before the recital. I started playing the Chopin. I was still angry that I would not be playing it for the recital, and I played it with anger. Soon the room was engulfed with the sounds of Chopin coming from this grand piano. At some point during a very agitated part of the Polonaise, Mildred came over, placed her hands on my shoulders and said to me, “Feel the fire of that!” It was the most pivotal point in my music career. The fire she talked of was passion, and I realized that it had taken me over.

She then pulled out the program for the recital that had been printed up two weeks before. It listed me playing the Chopin. She had faith in me and knew how to motivate me, even when I didn’t.

Bill and Kent’s Place –