Sunday, June 24, 2012

Somewhere Else with Ax & Ma

Emanuel Ax
We each have our places of solitude where perhaps we listen to our favourite music or better yet actually get to play some of it with our friends.

I got a call from a friend in New York who had just heard Emanuel Ax play in an all Mozart program with the Philharmonic led by Alan Gilbert. Years ago, in another age, I got to hear Emanuel Ax play a Mozart concerto live, and yes, there really is nothing like hearing it live, and all the words like “inevitable” or “natural” or anything implying that he makes it sound as if the music should “flow like oil” (Mozart's own words) certainly fit his playing as they apply to few others of his generation.

Another of our favourites is the cellist Yo-Yo Ma. We heard him play at Tanglewood a few years back and after the concert saw him attend to his adoring public and sign autographs with what seemed like infinite patience and graciousness rarely seen these days.

I'd like then to suggest having a listen to the two of them play this exquisite masterpiece by Franz Schubert (1797-1828), a Sonata (D. 821) he wrote in November of 1824 in Vienna. The original was written not for a violincello but a bowed guitar called an Arpeggione and piano accompaniment.

What's particularly instructive about this performance is the spaces between notes and the way the music is carried along by using the sustain of each instrument in a close match of careful inter-layered textures. This is intimate classical chamber playing at it's very best. Even when the music likes a faster tempo with lighter figurations, the sustains between the instruments hold everything together in a coziness that is rarely felt and experienced as well as this. Those who perhaps regard all modern interpretations as lacking what the old masters of perhaps the early 20th century could do, should certainly listen to this; not only is Ax the consummate accompanist, but Yo-Yo's tone is often so supple as to take your breath away. This sonata is in 3 movements:

1. Allegro moderato in a minor
[PART 2]
2. Adagio in E major
3. Allegretto in A major
Yo-Yo Ma

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