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Emanuel Ax: Variations


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Audio CD, January 22, 2013
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Emanuel Ax: Variations + Mendelssohn: Piano Trios Nos. 1 & 2, Opp. 49,66 + Beethoven: Complete Sonatas for Piano & Cello
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Product Details

  • Performer: Emanuel Ax
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven, Joseph Haydn, Robert Schumann
  • Audio CD (January 22, 2013)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony Masterworks
  • ASIN: B009PDO932
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,086 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Variations and Fugue for Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 35 ("Eroica Variations"); Introduzione col basso del tema. Allegretto vivace - Tema
2. Variations and Fugue for Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 35 ("Eroica Variations"); Variation 1
3. Variations and Fugue for Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 35 ("Eroica Variations"); Variation 2
4. Variations and Fugue for Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 35 ("Eroica Variations"); Variation 3
5. Variations and Fugue for Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 35 ("Eroica Variations"); Variation 4
6. Variations and Fugue for Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 35 ("Eroica Variations"); Variation 5
7. Variations and Fugue for Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 35 ("Eroica Variations"); Variation 6
8. Variations and Fugue for Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 35 ("Eroica Variations"); Variation 7
9. Variations and Fugue for Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 35 ("Eroica Variations"); Variation 8
10. Variations and Fugue for Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 35 ("Eroica Variations"); Variation 9
11. Variations and Fugue for Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 35 ("Eroica Variations"); Variation 10
12. Variations and Fugue for Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 35 ("Eroica Variations"); Variation 11
13. Variations and Fugue for Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 35 ("Eroica Variations"); Variation 12
14. Variations and Fugue for Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 35 ("Eroica Variations"); Variation 13
15. Variations and Fugue for Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 35 ("Eroica Variations"); Variation 14
16. Variations and Fugue for Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 35 ("Eroica Variations"); Variation 15
17. Variations and Fugue for Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 35 ("Eroica Variations"); Finale. Alla Fuga: Allegro Con Brio
18. Variations In F Minor (Sonata) Hob. XVII:6
19. Symphonic Etudes Op. 13; Thema: Andante
20. Symphonic Etudes Op. 13; Etude 1
See all 34 tracks on this disc

Editorial Reviews

Legendary pianist Emanuel Ax releases his new solo recital album Variations, featuring the artist's premiere recordings of pieces from Haydn, Beethoven and Schumann. Throughout 2013, Ax will be performing repertoire from Variations in Los Angeles, St. Louis, Atlanta, Detroit, Washington, DC and Pittsburgh. Additionally, as an Artist in Residence with the New York Philharmonic, Ax will appear frequently throughout 2013 at Lincoln Center. From a string of early career successes in the 1970s, Emanuel Ax has emerged as one of the most versatile, brilliant, and universally respected pianists on the international concert scene. As a soloist, Ax has demonstrated a particular affinity for the Romantics, nonetheless, his repertoire is among the most diverse of any pianist today. He is also a particular champion of contemporary music, and has played and commissioned works from such composers as Joseph Schwantner, John Adams, and Christopher Rouse. Ax is considered by players and audiences alike to be a chamber musician par excellence and his frequent partners include Isaac Stern, Jaime Laredo and Richard Stolzman. His regular collaborations with cellist Yo-Yo Ma have earned Ax three of his seven Grammy® Awards.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By P. Adrian on May 29, 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This recent release by renowned American virtuoso Emanuel Ax is devoted to some warhorses in the piano repertoire. Three composers, three variation-works: Beethoven's "Eroica", Schumann's Symphonic Etudes and Haydn's F minor Variations. Although Mr. Ax's keyboard command is flawless and the recorded sound marvelous, I must admit this recording is a remarkable but not a breath-taking one. For instance, in the Schumann case I find an older version of Maurizio Pollini as an unmatched benchmark, while "Eroica" Variations received its classical climax in Alfred Brendel's interpretation (both still available in the market).

When it comes to Emanuel Ax, for me he is a brilliant interpreter of Chopin. His version of the Chopin concertante works (achieved on a historical piano Erard) remain as exquisite samples of musical refinement and romantic inspiration.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Stanley Crowe TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 4, 2013
Format: Audio CD
The first thing I did after listening to the Eroica Variations on this disc was to haul out my copy of Gilels's 1982 recording on DG. The comparison wasn't flattering to this new recording. Then I hauled out Ax's recording of the Chopin concertos from about 1980 (with Ormandy, on RCA), and again the newer disc suffered by comparison. The Chopin concerto disc is a delight. What's the problem with this new one? To begin with, it's recorded at too high a level, with the microphone far too close. The effect is of no soft playing at all. You can turn down the volume control, of course, but that doesn't really change the perception that the music is coming at you at a single dynamic level. Related to this is the fact that the piano doesn't sound beautiful -- it sounds percussive and noisy in the lower reaches and tinkly and glassy in the higher. That Ax can command a beautiful tone AND dynamic variety is evident in the Chopin recording already alluded to (as well as in some of his chamber work with Yo-Yo Ma), but here there's nothing like that. Compare Gilels's account of the final Eroica variations and Ax's, and it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Ax has to bear some of the responsibility for the rather insensitive impression that his account makes. Ax seems a bit more attuned to the Schumann Symphonic Etudes, but the impression remains of a sound that is just too much in one's face. A big disappointment, then -- Ax is a fine player, and if you want to sample his art at its best, try to pick up that Chopin recording or (if Beethoven's what you want) the Cello Sonatas with Ma.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John J. Puccio TOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 21, 2013
Format: Audio CD
Not surprisingly, given the pianist's unassuming style, Ax gives us Beethoven in these interpretations rather than Ax. That is, he does not impose any idiosyncratic gestures of his own but keeps the music as close as I imagine Beethoven intended it. The more straightforward Ax plays, the more lovely the music becomes.

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor
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Format: Audio CD
I imagine that any CD from Emanuel Ax will divide opinion, because he has become an established icon on PBS - a kind of national pianist - while at the same time the qualities that brought him to this position make his playing too conventional, predictable, and "official" for those of us who expect more. This summer Ax turned 64, not old by any measure, and his technique remains intact. I've even felt a spark of hope from two recent live Beethoven concerto performances, including the Emperor, where he seemed more animated and involved. That spark shines through this set of "Eroica" Variations, which is the highlight of a recital dedicated to the variation form.

It's not very appealing as a program concept in the concert hall, where the start-and-stop of multiple variations gets monotonous. But at home we can pause where we like. I wasn't remotely tempted to pause in the Beethoven, where Ax's playing is sparkling and light throughout. He doesn't take is cue from the "heroic" sobriquet, preferring to scamper rather than shake the earth. Richter gives a more powerful interpretation, turning this score into a dry run for the quirkiness and thorniness of the Diabelli Var., but Ax doesn't think that Beethoven was there yet. He makes the case for Beethoven turning the variation form into something always dramatic and surprising but not yet daringly radical. Haydn would have been pleased to compose a few of the variations, and Ax's poised handling of the final fugue is classically poised, not a grand summation. (Contrary to a disgruntled earlier reviewer, I found nothing to complain about in the clear, detailed, close-up sound, or any fault in the piano as an instrument.)

Beethoven has been home ground for Ax over the decades, and so has Haydn.
Read more ›
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