Emanuel Ax Plays Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 With the SF Symphony

Written by Meikee Magnetic

A distinguished crowd gathered at the Davies Symphony Hall for two special performances with American pianist Emanuel Ax, Conductor Andrew Boreyko and the always, magical SF Symphony on Thursday April 11. Once again our world renown Symphony Hall was filled with Classical fans with the majority of the audience made up of septuagenarians and octogenarians.   

The SF Symphony players were all seated onstage dressed in black fine tuning their instruments making gentle tones that added to our excitement. As we all took our seats a calm was in the air until Mr. Ax and Conductor Andrey Boreyko walked out together and the applause filled the room. Mr. Ax spoke directly to the audience with no microphone, which was a lovely personal touch. He took his place at the front and centered black grand piano. With a wave of his conductor stick, Andrey started the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2.

As a first time listener to this piece, the calming beauty of the orchestration had my spirit lifted and filled with tranquillity. A piece that combines harrowing pianism with symphonic muscle had the hands of the audience moving and heads bouncing ever so subtly to symphonic rhythms. As the first part of the performance ended to a sea of applause, it was time for the intermission. This is a good time to have a glass of wine or champagne and admire the attendee’s attire. This was also the time I found out more about Mr. Ax who resides in New York. His wife Yoko Nozaki is also a pianist.

Once intermission was over and my fill of the beautiful view of San Francisco City Hall was sufficed, we took our seats. Excitement built back up in the anticipation of the three movements coming with the performance of Zemlinsky’s Die Seejungfrau (The Mermaid). We were transported back to the 19th century to the tale of a young mermaid who, on turning fifteen, is allowed to swim to the surface of the sea to glimpse the world in which humans dwell. Zemlinsky chose this story as the inspiration behind this musical piece that perfectly paints an aquatic landscape. In the story, the mermaid in losing the prince’s hand in marriage is met which a tragic fate, death and her dissolving into a sea of foam. Yet her soul remains immortal such as the music we were blessed to witness.       

Mr. Ax and Peter Wyrick performed the following encore: Schumann’s Fantasientstucke, Op, 72 – 1. Zart un mit Ausdruck and what an encore it was. Beautiful, majestic, powerful and captivating were all the words that came to mind and it was just a glorious finish to such a great night of classical music.  

Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

For more info on SF Symphony visit: www.sfsymphony.org