Ax Plays Brahms

September 13, 2019 | Hill Auditorium

Behind the Music

Serene, pastoral, and deceptively simple–no piece has come to define Aaron Copland’s reputation as the “American voice” of classical music more than the great American ballet, Appalachian Spring. We travel to the fields of Galánta with the composer, Zoltán Koldáy to continue our dance-inspired evening in Hill Auditorium. His Dances of Galánta holds a deeply personal meaning discovered by weaving through the Hungarian folk melodies from his childhood spent in Galánta surrounded by stunning orchestral colors. The distinct and fiery rhythms of Hungarian dances return and close the program with a performance of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2, op. 83 in B-flat major featuring celebrate pianist, Emanuel Ax.


COPLAND Appalachian Spring

KODÁLY Dances of Galánta

BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 83 in B-flat major 

Emanuel Ax, piano

We open our 91st season with the world-renowned acoustics of Hill Auditorium. 

Emanuel Ax, Piano


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 (just like this season’s featured cellist Zlatomir Fung!). Additionally, he attended Columbia University where he majored in French. 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.

Always a committed exponent of contemporary composers, with works written for him by John Adams, Christopher Rouse, Krzysztof Penderecki, Bright Sheng, and Melinda Wagner already in his repertoire, most recently he has added HK Gruber’s Piano Concerto and Samuel Adams’s “Impromptus”.

Mr. Ax has received GRAMMY® Awards for the second and third volumes of his cycle of Haydn’s piano sonatas. He has also made a series of Grammy-winning recordings with cellist Yo-Yo Ma of the Beethoven and Brahms sonatas for cello and piano. His other recordings include the concertos of Liszt and Schoenberg, three solo Brahms albums, an album of tangos by Astor Piazzolla, and the premiere recording of John Adams’s Century Rolls with the Cleveland Orchestra for Nonesuch. In the 2004/05 season Mr. Ax also contributed to an International EMMY® Award-Winning BBC documentary commemorating the Holocaust that aired on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. In 2013, Mr. Ax’s recording Variations received the Echo Klassik Award for Solo Recording of the Year (19th century music/Piano)

Mr. Ax resides in New York City with his wife, pianist Yoko Nozaki. They have two children, Joseph and Sarah. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and holds honorary doctorates of music from Skidmore College, Yale University, and Columbia University.

Fast Facts


The Hungarian Influence

In 1850, Brahms was introduced to Eduard Remenyi, a Hungarian refugee and violinist. Remenyi opened up Brahms to a whole new world of folk and roma music that left a lasting impression on his compositional style. The thundering cheer of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances takes over in the fourth movement of his Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 83 in B-flat major. 


Evolving Imagery

Aaron Copland’s music has come to represent a sense of place. From the western plains to urban metropolises, Copland had an undeniable talent for painting the landscapes of American beauty. Despite its title and current association with the area,  Appalachian Spring was originally composed free from the thought of the natural Appalachian landscape. Copland and Martha Graham worked to create a ballet exploring life in a rural Pennsylvania town with music that outlined human characteristics and unfolded programmatically.


by the numbers

Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 Duration (mins)

Appalachian Spring commission fee for Copland from Martha Graham (dollars)

Musicians in Your A2SO

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