Scott Speck, conductor
Alessio Bax, piano
Chamber Choir of Grand Rapids, Mark Webb, director
Friday February 01 at 7:30 pm
Italian Alessio Bax—called “the most elegant of today’s young pianists” by The New Yorker—performs the equally elegant Mozart concerto, widely regarded as the composer’s greatest work in this genre. Beethoven, upon hearing the piece, exclaimed “we shall never be able to do anything like that.”
Mozart Piano Concerto no.24
Beethoven Fantasia, Piano Chorus & Orchestra, op. 80 (Choral Fantasy)
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Combining exceptional lyricism and insight with consummate technique, Alessio Bax is without a doubt “among the most remarkable young pianists now before the public” (Gramophone). He catapulted to prominence with First Prize wins at both the Leeds and Hamamatsu International Piano Competitions, and is now a familiar face on four continents, not only as a recitalist and chamber musician, but as a concerto soloist who has appeared with more than 100 orchestras, including the London and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras, Dallas and Cincinnati Symphonies, NHK Symphony in Japan, St. Petersburg Philharmonic with Yuri Temirkanov, and the City of Birmingham Symphony with Sir Simon Rattle.
After inaugurating a new three-year appointment as Artistic Director of Tuscany’s Incontri in Terra di Siena festival in summer 2017, Bax launches Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s 2017-18 season in company with his wife and fellow pianist, Lucille Chung. Further highlights of his full season include a pair of high-profile U.S. duo recital tours with violinist Joshua Bell and flutist Emmanuel Pahud, respectively; UK solo recitals at London’s Wigmore Hall and the Leeds Piano Festival; collaborations with U.S. orchestras from the Minnesota Orchestra to the North Carolina Philharmonic, on concertos by Gershwin, Grieg, Rachmaninov, Saint-Saëns, and Schumann; return engagements in Yerevan with the Armenian Philharmonic and in Hong Kong; and Signum Classics’ release of his recording of Beethoven’s “Emperor” concerto with the Southbank Sinfonia, paired with rarely heard solo works by the master composer.
The 2016-17 season saw Bax return to the Vancouver Symphony for MacDowell’s Second Piano Concerto with Bramwell Tovey, and step in at the eleventh hour to play Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto with the Cincinnati Symphony under Sir Andrew Davis, in what proved “the most exciting debut in recent memory” (Cincinnati Enquirer). He also gave three performances at the Wigmore Hall, including his solo recital debut, which aired live on BBC Radio 3, and a duo recital with his regular collaborator, Berlin Philharmonic concertmaster Dashin Kashimoto, by way of a coda to their extensive Asian tour. Other highlights of recent seasons include Mozart with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra under Hans Graf; Rachmaninov with London’s Southbank Sinfonia led by Vladimir Ashkenazy; his Minnesota Orchestra debut under Andrew Litton; a return to the Dallas Symphony for Barber under Jaap van Zweden; season-opening appearances with the Colorado Symphony; and concerts at L.A.’s Disney Hall, Washington’s Kennedy Center, and New York’s Carnegie Hall. In 2009, the pianist was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant, and four years later he received both the Andrew Wolf Chamber Music Award and Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award, which recognizes young artists of exceptional accomplishment.
Bax is a staple on the international summer festival circuit, and has performed at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland; England’s International Piano Series and Aldeburgh and Bath festivals; the Risør Festival in Norway; and the Moritzburg Festival, Ruhr Klavier-Festival, and Beethovenfest Bonn in Germany. In the U.S., he makes regular appearances at New York’s Bard Music Festival, the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, the Bravo! Vail festival, Mimir Chamber Music Festival, Minnesota’s Beethoven Festival, Seattle Chamber Music Festival, Music@Menlo, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, and Kentucky’s Chamber Music Festival of Lexington. He has given recitals at New York’s Lincoln Center and other major music halls around the world, including those of Rome, Milan, Bilbao, Madrid, Paris, London, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, and Washington, DC. As a chamber musician, Bax has collaborated with Emanuel Ax, Sol Gabetta, Steven Isserlis, Nicholas Phan, Paul Watkins, Jörg Widmann, and the Emerson String Quartet, among many others.
Bax’s celebrated discography for Signum Classics includes Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” and “Moonlight” Sonatas (a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice”); Bax & Chung, a duo disc with Lucille Chung that includes Stravinsky’s original four-hand version of the ballet Pétrouchka as well as music by Brahms and Piazzolla; Alessio Bax plays Mozart, comprising Piano
Concertos K. 491 and K. 595 with London’s Southbank Sinfonia and Simon Over; Alessio Bax: Scriabin & Mussorgsky (named “Recording of the Month … and quite possibly my recording of the year” by MusicWeb International); Alessio Bax plays Brahms (a Gramophone “Critics’ Choice”); Bach Transcribed; and Rachmaninov: Preludes & Melodies (an American Record Guide “Critics’ Choice 2011”). Recorded for Warner Classics, his Baroque Reflections album was also a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice.”He performed Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata for maestro Daniel Barenboim in the PBS-TV documentary Barenboim on Beethoven: Masterclass, available as a DVD boxed set on the EMI label.
Alessio Bax graduated with top honors at the record age of 14 from the conservatory of Bari, his hometown in Italy, where his teacher was Angela Montemurro. He studied in France with Francois-Joël Thiollier and attended the Chigiana Academy in Siena under Joaquín Achúcarro. In 1994 he moved to Dallas to continue his studies with Achúcarro at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, where, with Lucille Chung, he is now the Johnson-Prothro Artist-in-Residence. He also serves with Chung as co-artistic director of Dallas’ Joaquín Achúcarro Foundation, created to cultivate the legacy of the Basque pianist and to support young pianists’ careers. A Steinway artist, Bax resides in New York City with Chung and their three-year-old daughter, Mila. Outside the concert hall he is known for his longtime obsession with fine food; as a 2013 New York Times profile noted, he is not only notorious for hosting “epic” multi-course dinner parties, but often spends his intermissions dreaming of meals to come.