September 20, 2019

Clearly among the most remarkable young pianists now before the public” (Gramophone), Alessio Bax looks forward to the release this season of Italian Inspirations, his eleventh recording for Signum Classics. Pairing works by Luigi Dallapiccola and Alessandro Marcello with Italian-themed pieces by Rachmaninov and Liszt, its program is also the vehicle for the Italian-American pianist’s upcoming U.S. tour, which features his solo recital debut at New York’s 92nd Street Y. Two further debuts follow with the Milwaukee and Santa Barbara Symphonies, where Bax plays Beethoven in concerts marking next year’s 250th anniversary celebrations of the composer’s birth. Other orchestral highlights include season-opening concerts with the North Carolina Symphony and a return to Italy’s Camerata Strumentale Città di Prato. A consummate chamber artist, Bax places especial focus on long-term collaborative projects this season, undertaking Beethoven’s complete sonatas for cello and piano with the Emerson String Quartet’s Paul Watkins at Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; giving numerous duo recitals and double concerto concerts with frequent piano partner Lucille Chung; rejoining Berlin Philharmonic principals Daishin Kashimoto, Emmanuel Pahud and others for chamber concerts at Japan’s Le Pont International Music Festival; and embarking on multiple U.S. and European recital tours with superstar violinist Joshua Bell. In high demand not only as a performer but also as both curator and educator, Bax recently completed his third summer as Artistic Director of Tuscany’s Incontri in Terra di Siena festival and joins the piano faculty of Boston’s New England Conservatory this fall.

Italian Inspirations on new album release, at 92Y, and more

A native of Bari, Italy, Bax expands his critically acclaimed Signum Classics discography with the release of Italian Inspirations next February. This new title comprises a creatively curated solo recital program themed to the pianist’s homeland, combining J.S. Bach’s arrangement of an Alessandro Marcello oboe concerto, Rachmaninov’s Variations on a Theme of Corelli, two pieces by Liszt that draw inspiration from great Italians, and Dallapiccola’s Quaderno musicale di Annalibera, a playful yet tender twelve-tone composition dedicated to the composer’s eight-year-old daughter, modeled after the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. Bax explains:

“As an Italian pianist, I have to be very creative when trying to come up with an Italian program. There is almost a total dearth of Romantic piano music, most likely because of the prominence of opera during that period. It’s as if Italian composers only became seriously interested in the piano in the 20th century!

   “However, Italy has always had great music. I open my program with a transcription, by Bach, of an oboe concerto by the Venetian composer Alessandro Marcello, which not only showcases this wonderful music but also reveals deep insight into Bach’s mind. I follow it with Rachmaninov’s last solo piano piece, a set of amazing variations on Corelli’s La Folia. This very simple theme becomes the vehicle for an incredible exploration of the piano’s dramatic potential.

   “The second half opens with Dallapiccola’s Quaderno musicale di Annalibera, which adheres to the structure of dodecaphonism, yet has so much subtlety, beauty and expression, and requires the utmost concentration and sonic command of the instrument. I complete my program with two works connected to Italy by the subject matter that inspired them. St. François d’Assise: La prédication aux oiseaux is at once stunning and elusive, while – in only around 15 minutes – Après une Lecture du Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata takes both listener and pianist on a multi-legged journey through heaven, hell, and earth, with so much beauty and drama along the way. It’s always a thrilling ride!”

When the pianist performed the same program on his extensive antipodean tour last season, Australia’s ArtsHub reported:

“Bax has an unusually wide command of style, with rhetoric as clear in the Bach as it was in the Dallapiccola. … Requiring tour de force virtuosity, thunderous weight and grandeur along with gossamer fragility, this proved to be a memorable recital.”

Similarly, when he reprised the program at Buenos Aires’s fabled Teatro Colón this past summer, Argentinean outlet Clarin reported:

“A master pianist …, the Italian musician dazzled at the Colón with an outstanding program. … The program is very broad as well as generous, but it could be said that at the same time a red thread runs through it; a peninsular thread. … If in the transcription of Bach his interpretation had a hypnotic effect, in the Rachmaninoff Variations the piano crossed landscapes and the most changing colors, besides authentic passages of bravura and virtuosity. … [Dallapiccola’s piece] is one of the great jewels of twelve-tone literature and all the pianistic literature of the 20th century. … Bax’s interpretation could not be more subtle or nuanced. At the end he played Liszt’s two pieces almost without pause; … the execution was magisterial.”

This fall, American audiences will also be able to hear the “Italian Inspirations” program in live performance, when Bax tours it to San Antonio (Nov 12), Exeter, NH (Dec 10), and New York’s 92nd Street Y, where he makes his eagerly anticipated solo recital debut on November 20.

North Carolina Symphony’s opening night, Milwaukee Symphony debut, and more

Bax bookends his 2019-20 concert season with a pair of high-profile collaborations. Today and tomorrow, he and Lucille Chung launch the North Carolina Symphony’s new season with performances of Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos led by music director Grant Llewellyn (Sep 20 & 21). “Gliding seamlessly between ferocity, biting irony, melting beauty and sheer magic,” the pianists’ recording of the same concerto, as transcribed by the composer for two pianos, was hailed as “the standout” (Gramophone) of their 2016 Poulenc release.

Late next spring, in honor of next year’s 250th anniversary celebrations of Beethoven’s birth, Bax makes his Milwaukee Symphony debut with season-closing performances of the “Emperor” Concerto under the baton of Korean conductor Han-Na Chang, Artistic Leader and Chief Conductor of Norway’s Trondheim Symphony (June 5 & 6). The pianist’s 2018 recording of the work impressed Gramophone as “an immensely solid performance” that “invites comparison with the best on disc.” Over the course of the season, the “Emperor” Concerto also takes him to California’s Pasadena Symphony (Nov 16), while Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto and “Choral Fantasy” are the vehicle for his Santa Barbara Symphony debut under music director Nir Kabaretti (May 16 & 17).

The versatile pianist revisits three great staples of the orchestral literature, playing Grieg’s Concerto with New Mexico’s Las Cruces Symphony (May 3), Tchaikovsky’s First with Iowa’s Des Moines Symphony (May 9 & 10), and Brahms’s Second – the same formidably challenging work with which Bax gave “the most exciting debut in recent memory” (Cincinnati Enquirer) with the Cincinnati Symphony – with Italy’s Camerata Strumentale Città di Prato (Nov 7). To complete his 2019-20 orchestral lineup, the pianist reunites with Chung for double concertos by Mozart and Schnittke under Andrew Constantine’s leadership at both Pennsylvania’s Reading Symphony (Jan 25) and Indiana’s Fort Wayne Philharmonic (April 4).

Collaborations with Joshua Bell, Lucille Chung, Paul Watkins and others

Besides taking first prizes at both the Leeds and Hamamatsu International Piano Competitions, Bax has been recognized with the Andrew Wolf Chamber Music Award, in honor of his dedication to chamber music. Having toured Europe, Asia and the Americas together many times over the past six years, he and Grammy-winning violinist Joshua Bell have achieved a musical partnership that can only be described as “perfect” (DrehPunktKultur, Germany). As the Santa Barbara Independent put it:

“Joshua Bell clearly has an ideal recital partner in Italian pianist Alessio Bax. … Balance and communication were the hallmarks of the evening by two young masters.”

This season, the two present a virtuosic program of Bach, Schubert, Franck and Ysaÿe at a number of prominent European destinations, including London’s Wigmore Hall (April 23) and the Vienna Konzerthaus (April 24), as well as on a pair of U.S. tours (Oct 27–Nov 3 & Jan 28–Feb 1), highlighted by their return to Los Angeles’s Disney Hall (Oct 30).

Bax also reunites with another of his most trusted musical collaborators, Paul Watkins of the Emerson String Quartet, who has been dubbed “Britain’s finest cellist” (The Guardian). This winter, anticipating their forthcoming Signum Classics recording, he and Watkins give a live rendition of Beethoven’s complete sonatas for cello and piano with New York’s Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS) (Feb 6).

As Classical CD Choice notes: “Bax and Chung demonstrate an almost supernatural understanding of the demands of the duo repertoire.” In addition to their double concerto concerts, the two give a number of recitals together this season, playing Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion for CMS (March 14 & 15) and piano duos by Ravel, Debussy, Poulenc, Lutosławski and Ligeti at Atlanta’s Spivey Hall (Oct 6) and in the Yale Piano Series (March 4). The husband-and-wife team also tours California with a duo program of Schubert, Debussy, Stravinsky and their own signature arrangements of Piazzolla tangos (Jan 10–12).

Bax’s other upcoming chamber collaborations include a duo recital with violinist Benjamin Beilman at Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre Chamber Music Festival (Jan 4) and a week of performances at Japan’s Le Pont International Music Festival, where he rejoins a host of superlative artists including Berlin Philharmonic principal flutist Emmanuel Pahud, trumpeter Sergei Nakariakov, and violinists Karen Gomyo, Alexander Sitkovetsky and Berlin Philharmonic concertmaster Daishin Kashimoto for Beethoven piano trios, Respighi’s Piano Quintet, the Saint-Saëns Septet and more (Sep 28–Oct 4).

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Alessio Bax: 2019–20 engagements

Sep 20 & 21
Raleigh, NC
North Carolina Symphony / Grant Llewellyn
POULENC: Concerto for Two Pianos (with Lucille Chung, piano)

Sep 28–Oct 4
Ako and Himeji, Japan
Le Pont International Music Festival
Sep 28:
BEETHOVEN: Gassenhauer Trio, Op. 11
(with Pascal Moraguès, clarinet; Claudio Bohórquez, cello)
Sep 29:
GRIEG: Andante con moto
(with Daishin Kashimoto, violin; Jing Zhao, cello)
Oct 1:
BLOCH: Three Nocturnes
(with Karen Gomyo, violin; Jing Zhao, cello)
SAINT-SAËNS: Septet
(with Alexander Sitkovetsky, violin; Karen Gomyo, violin; Laurence Power, viola; Jing Zhao, cello;
Nabil Shehata, double bass; Sergei Nakariakov, trumpet)
Oct 2:
BEETHOVEN: Quartet in D, WoO 36-2
(with Karen Gomyo, violin; Naoko Shimizu, viola; Claudio Bohórquez, cello)
Oct 4:
JOHANNES PRENTZEL: Sonata for Trumpet, Bassoon and Basso continuo, N. 75
(with Sergei Nakariakov, trumpet; Gilbert Audin, bassoon; Nabil Shehata, double bass)
BEETHOVEN: Allegretto for Piano Trio, WoO 39
(with Daishin Kashimoto, violin; Jing Zhao, cello)
FRANZ DOPPLER: Nocturne, Op. 19
(with Emmanuel Pahud, flute; Alexander Sitkovetsky, violin; Sergei Nakariakov, trumpet)
RESPIGHI: Piano Quintet
(with Karen Gomyo & Alexander Sitkovetsky, violins; Gareth Lubbe, viola; Jing Zhao, cello)

Oct 6
Atlanta, GA
Spivey Hall
Duo recital with Lucille Chung, piano
DEBUSSY, transc. RAVEL: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune for piano four-hands
POULENC: Concerto in D minor for Two Pianos (original version without orchestra)
LUTOSŁAWSKI: Variations on a Theme of Paganini for two pianos
LIGETI: Fünf Stücke, for piano four hands
RAVEL: La valse (original version for two pianos)

Oct 20
Reykjavík, Iceland
Duo recital with Joshua Bell, violin
SCHUBERT: Rondo brillante in B minor, D. 895
FRANCK: Sonata in A for Violin and Piano
BACH: Violin Sonata No. 4 in C minor, BWV 1017
YSAŸE: Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 27, “Ballade”
YSAŸE: Caprice d’après I’étude en forme de valse de Saint-Saëns

Oct 27–Nov 3
U.S. duo recital tour with Joshua Bell
SCHUBERT: Rondo brillante in B minor, D. 895
FRANCK: Sonata in A for Violin and Piano
BACH: Violin Sonata No. 4 in C minor, BWV 1017
YSAŸE: Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 27, “Ballade”
YSAŸE: Caprice d’après I’étude en forme de valse de Saint-Saëns
   Oct 27: Saint Paul, MN (Schubert Club)
Oct 30: Los Angeles, CA (Disney Hall)
Nov 1: Palo Alto, CA (Bing Concert Hall, Stanford University)
Nov 2: Davis, CA (University of California at Davis)
Nov 3: Oxnard, CA (Ventura Music Festival)

Nov 7
Prato, Italy
Camerata Strumentale Città di Prato / Jonathan Webb
BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 2 

Nov 12–Dec 10
U.S. solo recital tour: “Italian Inspirations”
MARCELLO, arr. J.S. BACH: Oboe Concerto in D minor, S D935; BWV 974
RACHMANINOV: Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42
DALLAPICCOLA: Quaderno musicale di Annalibera
LISZT: St. François d’Assise: La prédication aux oiseaux, S. 175/1
LISZT: Après une lecture du Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata, S. 161
Nov 12: San Antonio, TX
Nov 20: New York, NY (92nd Street Y)
Dec 10: Exeter, NH

Nov 16
Pasadena, CA
Pasadena Symphony Orchestra / David Lockington
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor”

Dec 5
Brussels, Belgium
Flagey, Music Chapel
Duo recital with Joshua Bell, violin
SCHUBERT: Rondo brillante in B minor, D. 895
FRANCK: Sonata in A for Violin and Piano
BACH: Violin Sonata No. 4 in C minor, BWV 1017
YSAŸE: Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 27, “Ballade”
YSAŸE: Caprice d’après I’étude en forme de valse de Saint-Saëns

Jan 4
Santa Barbara, CA
Lobero Theatre Chamber Music Festival
Duo recital with Benjamin Beilman, violin

Jan 10–12
Californian duo recital tour with Lucille Chung, piano
SCHUBERT: Fantasy in F minor for piano four-hands
DEBUSSY: Petite Suite
STRAVINSKY: Petrouchka
PIAZZOLLA (arr. BAX/CHUNG): Milonga del Angel
PIAZZOLLA (arr. BAX/CHUNG): Libertango
   Jan 10: Santa Cruz, CA
Jan 11: San Jose, CA (Steinway Society)
Jan 12: San Diego, CA (Salk Institute) 

Jan 19
Los Angeles, CA
Broad Stage
Chamber concert with Robert Davidovici, violin; Lucille Chung, piano
SCHUBERT: Fantasy in F minor for piano four-hands
ENESCU: Sonata No. 3 for violin and piano
PIAZZOLLA (arr. BAX/CHUNG): Tangos

Jan 25
Reading, PA
Reading Symphony Orchestra / Andrew Constantine
MOZART: Concerto for Two Pianos (with Lucille Chung, piano)
SCHNITTKE: Concerto for Two Pianos (with Lucille Chung, piano)

Jan 28–Feb 1
U.S. recitals with Joshua Bell, violin
SCHUBERT: Rondo brillante in B minor, D. 895
FRANCK: Sonata in A for Violin and Piano
BACH: Violin Sonata No. 4 in C minor, BWV 1017
YSAŸE: Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 27, “Ballade”
YSAŸE: Caprice d’après I’étude en forme de valse de Saint-Saëns
   Jan 28: Fort Collins, CO (Lincoln Center)
Jan 29: Beaver Creek, CO (Vilar Performing Arts Center)
Jan 31: Hartford, CT (The Bushnell)
Feb 1: Poughkeepsie, NY (Bardavon 1869 Opera House)

Feb 6
New York, NY
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (Rose Studio)
Duo recital with Paul Watkins, cello
BEETHOVEN: Complete Sonatas for Cello and Piano

Feb 23
Richmond, VA
Duo recital with Paul Watkins, cello

March 4
New Haven, CT
Yale Piano Series
Duo recital with Lucille Chung, piano
LUTOSŁAWSKI: Variations on a Theme of Paganini for two pianos
STRAVINSKY: Petrouchka
DEBUSSY, transc. RAVEL: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune for piano four-hands
POULENC: Concerto in D minor for Two Pianos (original version without orchestra)
LUTOSŁAWSKI: Variations on a Theme of Paganini for two pianos

March 14 & 15
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center concerts
BARTÓK: Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (with Lucille Chung, piano)
March 14: Purchase, NY
March 15: New York, NY

April 4
Fort Wayne, IN
Fort Wayne Philharmonic / Andrew Constantine
MOZART: Concerto for Two Pianos (with Lucille Chung, piano)
SCHNITTKE: Concerto for Two Pianos (with Lucille Chung, piano)

April 6–25
European duo recitals with Joshua Bell, violin
SCHUBERT: Rondo brillante in B minor, D. 895
FRANCK: Sonata in A for Violin and Piano
BACH: Violin Sonata No. 4 in C minor, BWV 1017
YSAŸE: Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 27, “Ballade”
YSAŸE: Caprice d’après l’étude en forme de valse de Saint-Saëns
   April 23: London, England (Wigmore Hall)
April 24: Vienna, Austria (Konzerthaus)

April 26
Waterford, VA
Solo recital

May 3
Las Cruces, NM
Las Cruces Symphony
GRIEG: Piano Concerto

May 9 & 10
Des Moines, IA
Des Moines Symphony / Joseph Giunta
TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1

May 16 & 17
Santa Barbara, CA
Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra / Nir Kabaretti (debut)
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 4
BEETHOVEN: “Choral Fantasy”

June 5 & 6
Milwaukee, WI
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra / Han-Na Chang (debut)
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor”

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© 21C Media Group, September 2019