Pianist Alessio Bax – New York Debut Recital : At The Metropolitan Museum

Alessio Bax Pianist

I already marveled about pianist Alessio Bax and his wife, pianist Lucille Chung in my article last October (http://blogcritics.org/music/article/new-venues-open-their-doors-for/, on the occasion of their performance at ‘LePoisson Rouge’; the downtown New York club that long since challenged the conceptual separation of classical and non-classical music performances and venues.

But regardless, whether you enjoy a drink with your Rachmaninov or the noise of dishes being shoved around during Brahms rather makes you cringe in your seat; Even though Bax is by no means a new addition to the classical concert scene, his “Debut” performance will take place tomorrow as part of the Metropolitan’s Museum Piano Forte Series at its Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, on Friday November 5th., 2010.

The handsome, Italian born pianist, found his passion for the piano when his parents presented him as a little kid, with a keyboard for Christmas.

At age 8 he loved Bach’s music and his father drove him to a Master class of internationally renowned pianist Joaquin Achucarro. This performance led to meeting one of the biggest influences, within his musical career.

Achucarro was not only kind enough, to let him perform but invited him to attend the Chigiana Academy in Siena, after he had graduated with top honors from the local conservatory at Bari, at a record age of 14.

After studying in France, with Francois –Joel Thiollier, it was again Achucarro who led Bax and his wife’s Lucille – who was a student of Achucarro at the Siena Academy as well – to follow him to the United States.

Bax continued his studies with Achucarro at the SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts in Dallas and is now also on its piano teaching faculty.

In 2000 then, he won the prestigious Leeds International Pianoforte Competition, opening many doors.

“After winning the Leeds competition, life changed – overnight”, says Bax in an interview with Clavier Companion in 2009.  “Fanny Waterman (the founder and director of the Leeds) gave us a wake-up call in her closing remarks. She said : ‘From tomorrow, you are not going to be compared to this or that young pianist in the competition, but you are going to be compared to the Brendels, Pollinis, and Perahias of the world.’ Now that really puts things into perspective”.

Of course ten years of appearances with numerous world class orchestras, including the London Philharmonic and collaborations with some of the great conductors that included Sir Simon Rattle as well as invitations to many of the finest music festivals, including the London International Piano Series (Queen Elisabeth Hall) and the Swiss Verbier festival, happened sometimes in between then – the Leeds competition in 2000 and the New York recital, now.

Alessio Bax and Sir Simon Rattle (2000)

 

I have heard Bax for the very first time perform, when he was awarded the Sony Career Grant by the “Salon of Virtuosi‘s” at New York’s Steinway Hall. His performance signaled dependability and at the same time profuse pianistic artistry, that continues to win over audiences and critiques alike and inspire comments like:”successful combining authority and poetry” (Daily Telegraph) and…“real music-making that makes its own world on stage and invites the audience in as guests” (The Independent), as well as praise for his recordings: His 2004 “Baroque Reflections” on Warner classics, was selected ‘Editors choice’ by Gramophone magazine…and All Music Guide called his disc ‘Bach transcribed of 2009 released by Signum records “technically unimpeachable”. His wide array of repertoire is reflected in his assortment of recordings, ranging from traditional to 21st.century selections, like G. Ligeti’s complete works for two pianos and piano- for -four hands with Lucille Chung, recorded 2003 on Dynamic Records and Marcel Dupré complete works for piano and organ music for Naxos, in 2009.

The documentary “Barenboim on Beethoven”, produced by channel 13 PBS in 2005, in conjunction with the BBC and NHK Japan, with Maestro Barenboim conducting a Master class that featured among others, Bax’s performance of Beethoven’s Fugue of the ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata.

Bax won the Avery Fisher career Grant in 2009 and a residency with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, who’s Artistic Directors David Finckel and Wu Han, also invited Alessio to their West Coast Summer Festival Music@Menlo.

Alessio Bax at Menlo

 In his blog (http://artistled.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/july-23-august-14-musicmenlo/) David Finckel describes Alessio Bax’s three-segment solo recital as follows:”Asked to contribute a program, Alessio sent us one based upon his recent Bach transcriptions recording, but then, eyeing the festival’s theme, offered us not only an additional Spanish program, but also an Italian recital (Italy was missing from our programming!). The concert lasted from 10am to 2pm with a short lunch break, and the consensus among the pianists, including Wu Han, was that none of them could remember hearing a better piano recital, ever. That may sound like an exaggeration but you had to be there to believe it. I still cannot quite believe it. Alessio played some of the most difficult music ever composed for piano with consummate virtuosity, always in perfect control yet taking risks, seemingly missing nothing, all with beautiful sound, combing delicacy and thunder, elegance, poise, flawless memory and tasteful showmanship. We are immensely proud to have brought Alessio to Music@Menlo and to The Chamber Music Society; in our opinion, he is among the greatest pianists on stage today…”

In a recent interview on http://www.dilettantemusic.com/editiorial/road-alessio-bax/, Bax mentions the unexpected effect that music can have on different audiences. He recalls the performance of the four-hand arrangement of Stravinsky’s “Petrushka”, on a Siberian tour together with his wife Lucille Chung, thinking the Russian repertoire would appeal to the audience:”But of course Stravinsky had been banned {in the Soviet Union}, and some of them had never heard it before….afterwards there was silence, like we had never heard it before! They were so moved, even though they didn’t know a single tune from it”

Pianists Lucille Chung and Alessio Bax

For this year’s outreach Program that takes place throughout the Canadian “Prairie Debut Tours”– Lucille Chung and Alessio Bax will perform a total of 30 concerts, in mostly smaller towns. They will present programs they love, regardless, whether they have been heard before or not.

What Bax enjoys most about concertizing, as he told me once over coffee at the new Alice Tully Hall café, last winter, is:”to take the audience on a journey, where the music comes alive. There is so much happening in the moment, so many variables that can affect the outcome of each performance, and if something changes you have to follow that. There is always spontaneity involved, even though you revert back to what you have practiced, change happens in an ethereal way.”

As Time Out New York advertises Bax’s good looks and stylish appearance it also promises a “concise sampling” of Bax’s style and vivid program consisting of :

Brahms’s Four Ballades, op. 10;

Rachmaninov’s  Variations on a Theme by Corelli, op. 42;

Bartók’s Dance Suite,

Granados’s”El amor y la muerte” from Goyescas,

Ravels “La Valse”

I am attending the rehearsal, but if you still need a ticket go to:

http://www.metmuseum.org/tickets/calendar/view.asp?id=3138

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