Emanuel Ax Plays Beethoven
Fri Oct 29 - Sat Oct 30, 2021
In his Minnesota Orchestra debut, conductor David Afkham joins forces with Grammy award-winning pianist Emanuel Ax—who has appeared on the Orchestra Hall stage many times since his own debut here 47 years ago—to present Ludwig van Beethoven’s most poetic of piano concertos. Inspired by Beethoven’s more dramatic side, composer Unsuk Chin’s subito con forza is an evocative, tumultuous work new to our stage this season. After intermission, the emotions and intensity will only increase as the Orchestra journeys through Dmitri Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony.
A Few Things to Know
- Minnesota was one of the first places Emanuel Ax ever played with a major orchestra—at Northrop Auditorium in 1974 and 1977, with the Minnesota Orchestra and conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski.
- Unsuk Chin's subito con forza was inspired by the conversation books that helped Beethoven communicate in person as his hearing diminished. This is the first Minnesota Orchestra performance of this piece, which first premiered in September 2020.
- The Orchestra performs another work by composer Unsuk Chin, Frontispiece for Orchestra, this February in concerts led by Dima Slobodeniouk.
Date & Time
subito con forza1 min note
One Minute Note
To mark last year’s occasion of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday, Unsuk Chin composed subito con forza (Italian for “Suddenly, with force”), inspired by the conversation books that helped Beethoven communicate in person as his hearing diminished. Brief, visceral and powerful, it includes many references to Beethoven’s music—hidden and overt.
Piano Concerto No. 41 min note
One Minute Note
Ludwig van Beethoven’s lyrical Fourth Piano Concerto begins with soloist rather than orchestra, foreshadowing the work’s soft-spoken mood. Most striking is the second movement, in which harsh strings are calmed by the gentle piano.
Symphony No. 101 min note
One Minute Note
Dmitri Shostakovich’s Tenth is a work of great extremes, requiring delicate strands of sound from a massive ensemble, framing tiny movements with huge ones, communicating darkly but rising to a high-spirited conclusion. Many assumed this enigmatic symphony was a protest against Stalin and his oppression, but the composer would acknowledge only that his wish was to portray human emotions and passions.”
The Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra, led by Danish conductor Thomas Søndergård—who is serving as music director designate during the 2022-23 season—is recognized for distinguished performances around the world, award-winning recordings and broadcasts, educational engagement programs, and commitment to building the orchestral repertoire of the future. Founded in 1903, the Orchestra has an extensive history of touring throughout Minnesota, nationally and abroad, including high-profile visits in recent years to Cuba, Europe and South Africa. Recording projects undertaken in the past two decades include complete cycles of symphonies by Beethoven, Sibelius and Mahler, all recorded under Osmo Vänskä, who is now the Orchestra’s conductor laureate.
David Afkham has just been announced as Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Orquestra y Coro Nacional de España from September 2019. This position will build on the success of his tenure as Principal Conductor of the orchestra since 2014, which has featured critically acclaimed performances of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, Bruckner Symphony No. 9, Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, Brahms’ Requiem, Haydn’s Die Schöpfung, as well as several world premieres and semi-staged projects with Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer, Strauss’ Elektra, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle. Born in Freiburg, Germany, in 1983, David Afkham is in high demand as a guest conductor with some of the world’s finest orchestras and opera houses, and has established a reputation as one of the most sought-after conductors to emerge from Germany in recent years.
Future highlights as a guest conductor include returns with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Münchner Philharmoniker, HR Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt, Swedish Radio Symphony, Orchestra of Accademia Santa Cecilia and NHK Symphony Orchestra, as well as debuts with the Pittsburgh Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra and Dresden Philharmonic.
Born in modern day Lvov, Poland, Emanuel Ax moved to Winnipeg, Canada, with his family when he was a young boy. His studies at the Juilliard School were supported by the sponsorship of the Epstein Scholarship Program of the Boys Clubs of America, and he subsequently won the Young Concert Artists Award. Additionally, he attended Columbia University where he majored in French. Mr. Ax made his New York debut in the Young Concert Artists Series, and captured public attention in 1974 when he won the first Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition in Tel Aviv. In 1975 he won the Michaels Award of Young Concert Artists followed four years later by the coveted Avery Fisher Prize.
Highlights of the 2019/20 season included a European summer festivals tour with the Vienna Philharmonic and long-time collaborative partner Bernard Haitink, an Asian tour with the London Symphony and Sir Simon Rattle and three concerts with regular partners Leonidas Kavakos and Yo-Yo Ma at Carnegie Hall in March 2020.
Additional recitals and orchestral appearances last spring were postponed due to Covid-19 and like many artists around the world, Mr. Ax responded to these unprecedented circumstances creatively. He hosted “The Legacy of Great Pianists,” part of the online Live with Carnegie Hall highlighting legendary pianists who have performed at Carnegie Hall. Last September, he joined cellist Yo-Yo Ma in a series of surprise pop-up concerts for essential workers in multiple venues throughout the Berkshires community.
Your Concert Experience
Join us for Q&A’s, hosted discussions, exhibits and more. All free with your concert ticket!
Exhibit by The Museum of Russian Art
When: Pre-Concert and Intermission
Where: Balcony A
The Museum of Russian Art will exhibit artworks in conjunction with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10. The display includes Soviet Era posters, paintings, and artifacts from the 1950s, recreating the aesthetics of the period on a small scale.
When: 7:00pm - 7:45pm
Where: Target Atrium
Cellist and podcast host Patty Ryan moderates a discussion on how major and minor keys in music are more emotionally complex than simply implying happy or sad. Joining Patty are bassist Jason Wells, composer Michael Maiorana, and musicologist Andrew Stoebig.
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