Monday, March 28, 2016

Emanuel Ax to Perform Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 with Pittsburgh Symphony

Pianist Emanuel Ax Photo Credit: Lisa Marie Mazzucco


    Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Music Director Manfred Honeck welcomes beloved pianist Emanuel Ax back to the Heinz Hall stage in a BNY Mellon Grand Classics program featuring Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 and choral favorites from Orff, Bernstein, Verdi and Boito.
    Brahms’ Concerto No. 2 is an epic 50-minute work, written two decades after Brahms’ first concerto and at the height of his fame. This concerto has the spaciousness of a symphony, the drama of an opera and the intimacy of a lullaby, and touches on nearly every emotion — and is some of the most difficult music ever written for a pianist!
    The choral works will feature the All University Choir, a new ensemble created from Maestro Honeck's vision to work with the great young singers of Pittsburgh-area universities and colleges. The group — which includes vocalists from Chatham University Choir, Duquesne University Voices of Spirit, Grove City College Touring Choir, St. Vincent Camerata and the Washington & Jefferson College Camerata Singers, under the direction of Robert Page and Christine Hestwood — will perform Bernstein's Chichester Psalms joined by boy soprano Maksim Shcherbatyuk and Verdi's Four Sacred Pieces, as well as dramatic excerpts from Orff's Carmina Burana and Boito's Prologue to Mefistofele.  The second half will also feature the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in Verdi's popular Overture to La forza del destino. 
    A pre-concert talk, open to all ticket holders and led by Assistant Conductor Andrés Franco, will occur on stage one hour before each concert. Program notes for the weekend are available online at pittsburghsymphony.org/ax and on the PSO mobile app the day of the concert.
    During the weekend, beginning one hour before concert time, student musicians will perform in the Grand Lobby of Heinz Hall. On Friday evening, an ensemble from Duquesne University will perform and on Sunday, an ensemble from the Three Rivers Young Peoples Orchestra will play. These performances are free to ticketholders.
    The concert begins at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets, ranging in price from $20 to $94, can be purchased by calling the Heinz Hall box office at 412-392-4900 or visiting pittsburghsymphony.org/ax.
About the Artists
Born in Lvov, Poland, Emanuel Ax moved to Winnipeg, Canada, with his family when he was a young boy. His studies at the Juilliard School were supported by the sponsorship of the Epstein Scholarship Program of the Boys Clubs of America, and he subsequently won the Young Concert Artists Award. Additionally, he attended Columbia University where he majored in French. Ax captured public attention in 1974 when he won the first Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition in Tel Aviv. In 1975, he won the Michaels Award of Young Concert Artists followed four years later by the coveted Avery Fisher Prize.
    Three prominent duo collaborations will be carried through Ax's current season. Beginning with the release of sonatas by Fauré and Strauss on the Deutsche Grammophon label, Ax will partner with long-time friend and colleague Itzhak Perlman for concerts in Kansas City, Ravinia, Dallas, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and La Jolla in the first half of the season. A return visit to Japan will be followed by concerts in Paris, Berlin, Rome, Tel Aviv and Amsterdam.
    As an annual guest with the New York Philharmonic, he will play Brahms with Alan Gilbert in addition to return visits to orchestras in Houston, Chicago, and Pittsburgh as well as duos in Philadelphia and New York with violinist Pamela Frank in a program of Mozart sonatas. Long-standing partner Yo-Yo Ma will join him in Norfolk, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Carnegie Hall where they will program all the Beethoven sonatas for cello and piano. Solo recitals in Tokyo, Arizona, Florida, Texas and Boston will culminate in Carnegie Hall as part of the hall's 125th anniversary celebrations in May.
  
    A Sony Classical exclusive recording artist since 1987, recent releases include Mendelssohn Trios with Yo-Yo- Ma and Itzhak Perlman, Strauss's Enoch Arden narrated by Patrick Stewart, and discs of two-piano music by Brahms and Rachmaninoff with Yefim Bronfman. Ax has received Grammy® Awards for the second and third volumes of his cycle of Haydn’s piano sonatas. He has also made a series of Grammy-winning recordings with cellist Yo-Yo Ma of the Beethoven and Brahms sonatas for cello and piano. His other recordings include the concertos of Liszt and Schoenberg, three solo Brahms albums, an album of tangos by Astor Piazzolla and the premiere recording of John Adams's Century Rolls with the Cleveland Orchestra for Nonesuch.
    In the 2004-2005 season, Ax also contributed to an International Emmy® Award-Winning BBC documentary commemorating the Holocaust that aired on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. In 2013, Ax's recording Variations received the Echo Klassik Award for Solo Recording of the Year (19th century music)/Piano.

    In recent years, Ax has turned his attention toward the music of 20th-century composers, premiering works by John Adams, Christopher Rouse, Krzysztof Penderecki, Bright Sheng and Melinda Wagner. Ax is also devoted to chamber music, and has worked regularly with such artists as Young Uck Kim, Cho-Liang Lin, Mr. Ma, Edgar Meyer, Peter Serkin, Jaime Laredo and the late Isaac Stern.

    Ax resides in New York City with his wife, pianist Yoko Nozaki. They have two children together, Joseph and Sarah. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and holds honorary doctorates of music from Yale and Columbia Universities. For more information about Ax’s career, please visit EmanuelAx.com.

    Since his arrival in 1975, Robert Page has been a major figure in the cultural life of Pittsburgh, bringing with him an international reputation as conductor and teacher. Named Pennsylvania’s Artist of the Year by Governor Tom Ridge in 1998 and dubbed “a national treasure” by American Record Review, Page, dean of America’s choral conductors served as music director and conductor of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh for 26 years, and now holds the title of music director emeritus.
     
    From 1989 to 2006, Page held the title of director of special projects and choral activities with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He retired his position as director of choral Studies and Paul Mellon University Professor of Music at Carnegie Mellon University in May 2013. Page served as assistant conductor and director of choruses of the Cleveland Orchestra (1971-1989). Prior to coming to Pittsburgh, Page served on the faculty of Temple University and was music director of the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, preparing choruses for the Philadelphia Orchestra for 19 years. For more than 15 years, Page prepared the All-Star College Chorus for the Pittsburgh Symphony and Marvin Hamlisch. His choral arrangements of many of Hamlisch’s songs were featured in almost every concert.


    Page has served on the choral, festival and overview panels of the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a found member of Chorus America, the service organization for independent choruses, serving as president for three years. In 2001, he was honored as one of the first members of the American Choral Directors Association and in 2009 was made an honorary life member of the National Collegiate Choral Organization.

    Robert Page has been catalyst in the commissioning of new works including Turbae (Alberto Ginastera), conducting the work in Philadelphia, New York, Cleveland and Buenos Aires); The Lovers (Samuel Barber); Ball (Richard Hundley);…Among The Voices (Bernard Rands); and, for the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, An American Oratorio (Ned Rorem), Missa Mysteriorum and the critically acclaimed Requiem by Nancy Galbraith. He was the chorus master for the Chicago Lyric Opera/La Scala production of Paradise Lost (Kristof Penderecki) at the composer’s request. During his tenure with the Cleveland Orchestra he conducted the Cleveland first performances of Mass Of Life (Frederick Delius); Passion According To St. Luke (Penderecki), and a Rorem commissioned work. He presented Pittsburgh with the first performances of William Schuman’s Concerto on Old English Rounds for Viola, Women’s Voices and Orchestra, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, “Babi Yar,” Leonardo Balada’s Torquemada and Ned Rorem’s Goodbye, My Fancy, and the first professional performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem.


CHRISTINE HESTWOOD is a Pittsburgh-based conductor, educator and singer who has enjoyed a long association with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.  Past projects include work in audience engagement and music education advocacy. She served as co-director of the Night of 2,000 Stars, a 1996 project that featured 2,000 high school singers and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.  She also served as co-director of the April 2013 Music for the Spirit concert, where more than 1,500 singers from Pittsburgh area high schools, colleges and community choirs joined voices to sing with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. She was the assistant conductor of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and music director of the Junior Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh. Hestwood is a vocal music teacher in the Upper St. Clair School District and the director of music at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Upper St. Clair, where she has the privilege of conducting their 70-voice Chancel Choir. She is a proud member of Seraphic Singers, a 12-voice professional women’s chorus based in Pittsburgh. Hestwood earned degrees from Duquesne University (B.S. in voice and music education) and Carnegie Mellon University (M.M. in conducting), where she studied with Robert Page.

MAKSIM SHCHERBATYUK is a 12-year-old singer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His first public performance happened in September 2006 during a church service. He sang one-and-a-half verses of his favorite carol that he just learned and rendered the priest and parishioners speechless. Since then Shcherbatyuk has sung at many different concerts and festivals where he always had a warm reception. He likes to play piano, soccer, chess, judo and — like every kid — video games, which somehow does not prevent him from having all A grades on his report card. Shcherbatyuk attends South Fayette Middle School.

In 2011, Shcherbatyuk joined the fabulous Pittsburgh Youth Chorus at Duquesne University where he has a chance to learn a beautiful art of music as well as perform with very talented group of children. 

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