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Alessio Bax Tours with Emmanuel Pahud and Showcases Italian-Themed Recital Program This Winter; Releases New Beethoven’s “Emperor” Recording in May

Clearly among the most remarkable young pianists now before the public” (Gramophone), this winter Alessio Bax embarks on a six-stop U.S. tour with Berlin Philharmonic principal flutist Emmanuel Pahud, taking in Washington’s Kennedy Center (Feb 16), New York’s 92nd Street Y (Feb 17), and the San Francisco Performances series (Feb 21). After presenting an Italian-themed solo recital program at Houston’s International Piano Festival (Feb 3), Bax reprises it at London’s Wigmore Hall (May 18), where he appeared three times last season. In New York, having anchored the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s season-opening concert this fall, he returns to CMS for a pairing of Mozart and Smetana that marks his first appearance in New York’s People’s Symphony Concerts (Jan 20), and then takes part in an all-Franck evening at Alice Tully Hall (Feb 9). Finally, spring sees the Leeds and Hamamatsu International Piano Competition-winner expand his already extensive Signum Classics discography with the release of Beethoven’s “Emperor” concerto, recorded with London’s Southbank Sinfonia, on May 4.

Tour with Emmanuel Pahud (Feb 14–21)

On the heels of his first U.S. duo recital tour of the season, with superstar violinist Joshua Bell, Bax joins “master flautist” Emmanuel Pahud (The Guardian) for his second. An exploration of works originally written for other instruments, the tour takes Bax and Pahud to Ann Arbor, MI; Hartford, CT; Washington, DC; New York, Atlanta, and San Francisco with a program that – with some variation from date to date – includes the flutist’s own arrangements of Schubert’s “Arpeggione” Sonata, Mendelssohn’s Violin Sonata in F, and Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, together with flute sonatas by Poulenc and Bach. At the Kennedy Center, in a performance that marks his second appearance of the season under the auspices of Washington Performing Arts, Bax also offers a taste of his solo chops, giving an account of Dallapiccola’s Quaderno musicale di Annalibera. Tender and playful by turns, the twelve-tone composition was inspired by the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, and dedicated to the Italian composer’s eight-year-old daughter. (Released last year, Bax’s solo album Lullabies for Mila is dedicated, similarly, to his own little girl.) He says:

“While still adhering to the structure of dodecaphonism, the Quaderno musicale di Annalibera manages to have so much subtlety, beauty, and expression, and requires the utmost concentration and sonic command of the instrument.”

Solo recitals at International Piano Festival (Feb 3) and Leeds Piano Festival (May 14 & 18)

The Quaderno musicale also features in Bax’s Italian-themed solo recital program, alongside Bach’s arrangement of an Alessandro Marcello oboe concerto, Rachmaninov’s Variations on a Theme of Corelli, and two pieces by Liszt that drew inspiration from great Italians. 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 none other than Johann Sebastian 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. After opening the second half with the Dallapiccola, I complete my program with two works connected to Italy by the subject matter that inspired them. St. François d’Assise: La predication aux oiseaux is at once stunning and elusive, while – in only around 15 minutes – Après une Lecture de 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!”

Bax performs this program for his solo recital at this year’s International Piano Festival at the University of Houston, where he also gives a masterclass the following day, and for his two appearances in England’s inaugural Leeds Piano Festival. It was after taking first prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition in 2000 that the pianist first catapulted to worldwide attention, and now, as one of the competition’s distinguished laureates, he has been invited to give solo recitals both in Leeds and at the Wigmore Hall. Last season he made no fewer than three appearances at the storied London venue, including his house solo recital debut, which aired live on BBC Radio 3.

Concerto collaborations: Gershwin, Grieg and Rachmaninov

Like the recital program, Bax’s upcoming concerto collaborations also showcase his range. With Connecticut’s Hartford Symphony, he plays Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F, which – while less familiar than the Rhapsody in Blue – he considers “a true masterpiece of American music, with unlimited imagination and drive” (April 6–8). No less commanding in the classics, he also undertakes two iconic masterworks of the piano literature. For his return to the North Carolina Philharmonic (March 10), where he stepped in to play Tchaikovsky during the orchestra’s 2016-17 season-launching weekend, he plays the Grieg concerto, with which he wowed critics earlier this season (see below). Then he joins the Wisconsin Philharmonic and Alexander Platt (April 9 & 10) for the Second Piano Concerto by Rachmaninov, in whose music “Bax conquers all with plenty of technique to spare” (American Record Guide).

New recording of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto with Southbank Sinfonia

For his next recording for Signum Classics – Gramophone magazine’s “Label of the Year 2017” – Bax reunited with London’s Southbank Sinfonia, his collaborator on Alessio Bax plays Mozart. Released in 2013, the Mozart album was named a “Connoisseur’s Choice” by Classic FM, while confirming the pianist’s “repute as a performer of gossamer brilliance” (Audiophile Audition). His celebrated discography for the label also includes Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” and “Moonlight” Sonatas, a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice” on its release three years ago. The new album once again features the master composer’s music, pairing some of his lesser-known solo works with the great “Emperor” Concerto. When Bax played the concerto with the same orchestra at Italy’s 2016 Incontri in Terra di Siena Festival, Bachtrack admired his “beautifully crisp, sharp, satisfyingly phrased performance.” As the review continued:

“His capacity for softness and for evenness of touch came beautifully to the fore for the concerto’s many top-keyboard pianissimo flutterings, as his strong relationship with the orchestra also reaped dividends, producing satisfyingly sympathetic chamber pockets amidst the surrounding symphonic excitement.”

The Italian pianist returned to Incontri in Terra di Siena last summer to launch his three-year appointment as Artistic Director of the Tuscan festival. Scheduled to take place from July 28 to August 4, the second season of his tenure will once again feature a full roster of world-renowned artists, gathered together in the idyllic Val d’Orcia region, which is a UNESCO Heritage site. As Classical Music magazine put it:

“One of the best kept early 20th-century gardens in Italy is the fragrant setting for a festival that has spent 25 years celebrating music, visual arts, history, literature – and of course, being Italian, food and wine. It’s magic.”

Fall triumphs with Joshua Bell and the Minnesota Orchestra

These winter and spring engagements follow a full fall for the pianist, highlighted by his collaborations with Joshua Bell and the Minnesota Orchestra. On tour with the violinist, he helped bring “transport through hedonic pleasure,” according to the Washington Post, which admired how well Bell was “sensitively partnered by the Italian pianist Alessio Bax, who offered limpid but never self-effacing accompaniment.” Similarly, Kansas City’s KC Metropolis marveled at “their brilliance and flair as musicians,” observing: “Pairing [Bell’s] talent with Bax’s finesse, beauty, and mastery at the piano proved to be an impeccably satisfying concert.”

The pianist’s account of the Grieg concerto with the Minnesota Orchestra also made the press sit up and take note. “How do you make an old warhorse like Grieg’s Piano Concerto into a freshly primed young stallion?” asked the Star Tribune, before concluding:

Alessio Bax showed how it’s done during Thursday’s Minnesota Orchestra concert. There was snap and attitude in Bax’s account of Grieg’s opening movement, the rhythms darting around like a bunch of mischievously dancing Norwegian trolls. Poetry came in the smoother second subject melody, with Bax allowing himself a considerable easing of tempo. His cadenza was explosive, yet also subtle.”

Twin Cities agreed:

Bax called forth the many moods of Grieg’s chameleonic concerto, beauty and force emerging in equal measure. … [He] admirably avoided the histrionics too often displayed on the Grieg concerto, instead making each new theme (and this concerto has a plethora of them) an opportunity for exploration. He displayed playfulness on the dashing and darting staccato sections, sweet subtlety on the slow movement, and lyricism at the climax, … let[ting] let the romanticism flow unabated right through to his encore of Fritz Kreisler’s “Liebesleid.”

To download high-resolution photos, click here.

Alessio Bax: winter and spring engagements

Dec 17

Ridgewood, NJ

Parlance Concert Series

Duo recital with Lucille Chung, piano

Jan 8–13

Akita, Japan

Atorion Concert Hall

Akita Chamber Music Festival and Academy

With Ju-Young Baek, Heiichiro Ohyama, and Alexander Buzlov

Jan 20

New York, NY

Washington Irving High School

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at People’s Symphony Concerts

Mozart: Quartet in E-flat (with Arnaud Sussmann, violin; Daniel Phillips, viola; David Finckel, cello)

Smetana: Piano Trio (with Arnaud Sussmann, violin; Daniel Phillips, viola; David Finckel, cello)

Feb 3 & 4

Houston, TX

University of Houston

International Piano Festival

Feb 3: Solo recital

  1. 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 predication aux oiseaux, S. 175/1

Liszt: Après une Lecture de Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata, S. 161

Feb 4: Masterclass

Feb 9

New York, NY

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

Alice Tully Hall

Franck: Prélude, choral et fugue M. 21

Franck: Violin Sonata in A (with Benjamin Beilman, violin)

Franck: Quintet (with Ani Kavafian and Benjamin Beilman, violins; Paul Neubauer, viola; David Requiro, cello)

Feb 14–21

U.S. duo recital tour with Emmanuel Pahud, flute

Schubert (arr. Pahud): Sonata in A minor for arpeggione and piano, D. 821

Mendelssohn (arr. Pahud): Violin sonata in F (1838)

Poulenc: Sonata for flute and piano, FP 164 (not in Ann Arbor)

Schumann (arr. Pahud): Fantasiestücke for clarinet, violin, or cello, Op. 73 (not in DC or NYC)

Bach: Flute sonata in E-flat, BWV 1031 (NYC only)

Dallapiccola: Quaderno musicale di Annalibera for solo piano (DC only)

Feb 14: Ann Arbor, MI (University Musical Society, University of Michigan)

Feb 15: Hartford, CT

Feb 16: Washington, DC (Kennedy Center)

Feb 17: New York, NY (92nd St Y)

Feb 18: Atlanta, GA (Spivey Hall)

Feb 21: San Francisco, CA (San Francisco Performances)

March 10

Raleigh, NC

North Carolina Philharmonic / Elim Chan

Grieg: Piano Concerto

March 25

Dallas, TX

Southern Methodist University (Caruth Auditorium)

Recital with Escher String Quartet

April 6–8

Hartford, CT

Hartford Symphony Orchestra / Thomas Wilkins

Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F

April 9 & 10

Waukesha, WI

Wisconsin Philharmonic / Alexander Platt

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2

May 14

Leeds, UK

Leeds Festival

Solo recital

May 15

Leeds Festival

Lang Lang International Music Foundation


May 18

London, UK

Leeds Festival

Wigmore Hall

Lunchtime recital

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© 21C Media Group, December 2017

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