Emanuel Ax

© Marie Mazzucco / Sony Classical


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 where 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. Emanuel Ax captured public attention in 1974 when he won the first Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition in Tel Aviv and in 1979 he won the coveted Avery Fisher Prize in New York.

Emanuel has been an exclusive Sony Classical artist since 1987 and his notable recordings include the Grammy Award winning albums of Haydn piano sonatas and Beethoven and Brahms sonatas for cello and piano with Yo-Yo Ma.


From The Green Room

Online Performances



  • 11 Sep 17 MOZART Piano Concerto No. 14 in E-flat major, K449 Wiener Philharmoniker/Michael Tilson Thomas - BBC Proms
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    “…The piano concerto was Mozart’s 14th, a mellow, middle-period work that feels bathed in sunlight. And, as Ax brought out the decisive opening chords followed by their legato answer, I was struck by the thought I often have when I hear pianists of his generation and background (born to concentration-camp survivors in Poland in the Forties, trained at the Juilliard in its heyday): what is it that makes their sound so magical, and why can no young pianist today reproduce it? Words such as “breeding” and “singing warmth” don’t get near the heart of this mystery.
    His encore was a Schubert impromptu, wrapping things up like a bed-time story…”

    Michael Church, The Independent

  • 02 Feb 13 SCHUMANN Fantasiestuecke And Humoreske [CD]
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    “…Beautiful sound and playing as well as superior musicianship-the reliable Ax mix….”
    BBC Music Magazine

  • 02 Feb 13 BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No 5
    Philharmonia Orchestra/Salonen
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    “…an avuncular veteran who could never be accused of reticence or wispiness. There were moments in the slow movement when we could have done with more of both. Yet elsewhere Ax was magisterial. I loved the epic sweep to his interpretation, but also the touches of rubato, and the bell-like sonorities he drew from the Steinway’s upper register.
    Best of all, however, was his visible sense of enjoyment: enjoyment not only of Beethoven’s music, but also of his colleagues’ contributions. So many pianists today appear cocooned in gloomy self-absorption. To find one who actually seems delighted to tinkle the old ivories — especially after so many decades in the job — is a real bonus..”
    The Times
  • 05 Mar 13 Various Variations, Sony Music Classical
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    “…From time to time one is reminded of an artist who is sometimes taken for granted such is his musical achievement over the years. New artists appear showing great promise but, when a long established performer makes a new recording of great authority and musicianship, one is jolted into recognising again the stature of such an artist.

    Such is the case with a new recording for Sony Classical  www.sonymasterworks.com  by Emanuel Ax http://emanuelax.com. Here Ax has recorded Beethoven’s Variations and Fugue for piano in E flat major Op.35, Haydn’s Variations in F minor Hob.XVII:6 (Andante con variazioni) and Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes Op.13. Emanuel Ax has said that ‘we’re so centered on the sonata style. What’s nice sometimes is to look at other ways to deal with structure, other ways to deal with expression’ and indeed he does so, brilliantly […] From the opening chord, Emanuel Ax shows that he is his own man, giving a gently thoughtful yet spontaneous presentation of the theme, before the full allegretto vivace, Eroica (or rather Prometheus) theme. There are so many lovely features in this performance, such as the lovely rolling first variation played with a nonchalant air, yet with such fine pianism, superb fluency in variation two, lovely touches in the fleeting fourth variation, an improvisatory fifth that could easily be Beethoven trying out his ideas. There is imagination and mastery throughout variation seven; a lovely expansive eighth variation has all the poetry and feeling that you could want…”

    The Classical Reviewer 

    “…Ax’s playing is always marvellously articulate and totally unfussy. Nothing is done for effect or to draw attention to the player rather than to what he is playing; though his range of touch and keyboard colour is consummately wide, it is never used cosmetically […] There’s no mistaking the scale of this music or the way it engages every aspect of Ax’s musical intelligence.

    He presents the Beethoven as public statement, but Ax is equally capable of judging the perfect, intimate scale for Haydn’s F minor Variations. His performance savours all of the work’s harmonic subtleties, major-minor contrasts and excursions to remote keys. He manages to honour the work’s 18th-century classical background as well as bringing out its uncanny anticipations of later composers, before launching into the Schumann with infectious gusto […] It’s such a warm-hearted performance that you hardly notice the keenly analytical musical mind that’s directing it so unswervingly…”

    Andrew Clements, The Guardian 

    “…Bearing the deceptively simple umbrella title Variations, this CD embraces some of the richest and most original music ever composed for piano. Moreover, it is played by a pianist who understands every nook and cranny of its ingenious workings and has at his fingertips not only the formidable technical equipment needed to play all three of the works but also the sensibility to animate their expressive potential. Emanuel Ax performs superlatively here in a way that ignites the virtuosity that Haydn, Beethoven and Schumann all call into play but with a command of colour, variety of touch and strength of interpretative ideas that are allied to his infallible sense of how the music breathes […] Ax’s manner is beautifully poised. He exaggerates nothing but allows the music to speak its own message and assert its own personality as only the most perceptive of pianists can. On either side of the Haydn, the Beethoven and Schumann are given performances that combine power and playfulness, clarity, cohesion and character of a consistently compelling order. This is playing by a true master of his art…”
    Geoffrey Norris, The Telegraph

  • 10 Dec 14 BRAHMS LSO/Harding/Brahms Piano Concerto No 2
    Barbican Centre
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    “…What every conductor, orchestra and audience loves about Ax is the sheer exuberance of his playing. Grandiloquent without being merely rhetorical, flexible and ardent without laying on the schmaltz, Ax actually brought a depth and definition to this Brahms that at times had been lacking in the symphony.

    Brahms was inevitably and dauntingly aware of the giant marching behind him that was Beethoven. Just as Ax summons up the struggle in Beethoven, so he brings out this element in Brahms. Rebecca Gilliver’s third-movement cello solo provided generously for the sob-factor and Ax accompanied her with sweetly turned decorations and descants.”

    Hilary Finch, The Times