With our taste buds satisfied at the conclusion of Triangle Restaurant Week 2014, our ears are now in for an indulgent treat.
Internationally-renowned pianist Emanuel (Manny) Ax, who has been described by the Los Angeles Times as a “pianist at one with the music,” will be performing a solo concert in Baldwin Auditorium on Sat., February 1.
Originally, the performance was scheduled to be a two-piano recital performed by Ax and his wife, pianist Yoko Nozaki.
“Playing with somebody is just a little different, because you’re always on stage with someone you like, and you’re sharing the music with each other. And of course, when it’s your wife, it’s extra special,” Ax said.
However, Nozaki will be unable to perform on Saturday due to illness, though she will still be accompanying her husband to Durham. In light of this change of plan, Ax will be filling the auditorium with melodies of Beethoven and Brahms in a full-length solo recital in lieu of the originally planned two-piano repertoire.
“I liked it. It’s as simple as that,” Ax said in regard to why he started studying piano. He is now one of the most prominent pianists worldwide. Propelled into the profession after winning the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in 1973, he has received seven Grammy Awards.
“He is a very special musician, just a real gentleman—a personable and incredibly thoughtful man. He is probably one of the best known classical musicians and it’s a real privilege to have him coming down,” Aaron Greenwald, executive director of Duke Performances, said.
This performance is equally special to the artists themselves.
“Durham is where my wife is from. She’s Japanese, and her family came over when she was 12. Her father taught in the biochemistry department at Duke,” Ax explained.
“This is the opening year of Baldwin Auditorium, a very high-level event, so it made lots of sense to invite them because of Yoko’s connection to Durham and to Duke,” Greenwald said. The newly-renovated Baldwin Auditorium will not only showcase Ax’s piano performance but also pay tribute to Nozaki’s homecoming.
The pieces that Ax will play embrace the work of Beethoven and Brahms. They include a set of Brahms variations, where a single lively theme evolves through a number of styles.
“Brahms is near the top of the list,” Ax said, although he cannot pinpoint one favorite composer. “I’ve done things with Schumann and Chopin, and thought Brahms would be fun. I’m doing Brahms together in concerts with my good friend, cellist Yo-Yo Ma.”
“[He has] total and utter technical command…insight into the music…and the ability to interpret a piece and offer it with authenticity, with real feeling,” Greenwald said.
However, despite a poised exterior, Ax says that on the stage, “I’m not super relaxed at all. I get very nervous.”
For those coming to see his recital, Ax has a message: “I hope they enjoy themselves. I hope they don’t feel they have to behave in any proper way and that they just listen and have a good time. I hope they get excited and moved by the music itself.”
Emanuel Ax will perform Sat., February 1 at 8 p.m. in Baldwin Auditorium. Although the concert is sold out, a handful of tickets will be released at 7 p.m. at the door. For more information, visit the Duke Performances website.