Seven years after his first Lied Center for Performing Arts performance, internationally renowned pianist Emanuel Ax will return to Lincoln’s most prestigious stage for a Sunday recital of a program of Bach, Schoenberg, Schumann, Ravel and Chopin.
A seven-time Grammy winner (five for best chamber orchestra performance with Yo-Yo Ma, two for best instrumental soloist without orchestra), Ax is ranked among the world’s top classical musicians — a position reflected by inclusion, along with the likes of Rubinstein and Rachmaninov, in Philips Records' “Great Pianists of the 20th Century” series.
Ax, 69, was born in Lviv, Ukraine to Russian-Jewish parents. They moved first to Warsaw, where Ax began studying piano, and later Winnipeg, Manitoba before settling in New York in 1961. Therem, Ax attended the Juilliard School, studying under Polish-American pianist Mieczyslaw Munz.
That upbringing, Ax told the Charlotte Observer last year, has impacted his performance and directly reflects on the program he will present in Lincoln.
“I think what makes you want to play certain music is your experiences with what you heard,” Ax told the newspaper. “I heard Rubinstein a lot, I heard Horowitz a lot and they were idiomatic Chopin players. If I have a decent way with Chopin, that’s probably due to upbringing.
“Sad to say, my teacher wasn’t interested in Bach, so I learned very little while I was young. I’ve learned three of the Bach partitas, and my goal is to learn the other three and play them before I’m completely kaput.”
Still constantly learning, Ax is a prolific recording artist whose recent releases include Mendelssohn Trios with Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, Strauss’ “Enoch Arden” narrated by Patrick Stewart and discs of two-piano music by Brahms and Rachmaninoff with Yefim Bronfman.
In addition, Sony Legacy recently reissued a 23-CD retrospective of his RCA recordings from 1975 to 1987.
The New York-based Ax remains a constantly touring performer, playing solo recitals, as he will in Lincoln, chamber music performances and with symphony orchestras, as he will Friday in Oakland, California, and next week in Pittsburgh.
Regardless of the type of performance and its location, he earns raves from critics and audience members alike.
“His greatness, his overwhelming authority as musician, technician and probing intellect emerges quickly as he plays,” wrote the Los Angeles Times. “Within minutes, we are totally captured by his intensity and ... achievement (on the piano)."
Ax’s Lied Center performance is set for 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $19 to $44 and available at the Lied Center box office, liedcenter.org and by phone at 402-472-4747.