Emanuel Ax is one of those pianists whose fabulous technique comes second to a keen and knowing musicianship – and how refreshing his quiet demeanour is in these days of show-off performers.
His recital marked the 200th birthdays of Chopin and Schumann with a thoughtfully-designed programme of fantasies and polonaises.
Schumann’s Fantasie in C, Op 17, was moulded by Ax into a wonderfully persuasive musical argument, the E flat March delivered with a energy and the tangential asides of the finale bathed in tonal beauty.
Chopin’s Poloniase-Fantaisie, Op 61, a work of equally loose structure, was just as compelling. Ax counterbalanced his selection of mazurkas with Schumann’s Fantasiestucke, Op 12, all perfectly cast in mood and texture. Even in his concluding and most overtly virtuosic display, Chopin’s Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise, Ax focused on passion and poetry than empty brilliance. It was the highlight of the afternoon.