One of the truly great pianists on the scene for decades now is Emanuel Ax. Known for his interpretations of the classical concerto repertoire with orchestras around the world, he is also a soloist and collaborator of wide range. From Beethoven to Hans Werner Henze to contemporary music, and even to Chopin on period keyboards, Emanuel Ax is always inquisitive.
Emanuel Ax: “I’m not good at saying ‘No’ to things. If people suggest something or they ask me to do something, I don’t usually say ‘No,’ so I wind up doing all kinds of things that I may not have intended to do, but there have been very few things that I would say I wish I hadn’t said ‘Yes’ to this.”
Kile Smith: He says that every piece demands a new way of making music.
EA: “You have to learn new ways of playing, very often. You know, maybe that happens in every generation. I had a very old teacher, who was from the time of Hofmann and Rachmaninoff. I remember once, I was supposed to go to a competition. One of the required pieces was Schoenberg Op. 11 Piano Pieces, and I played them for him. He could not get over the fact that I put this in my head. He kept saying, ‘How did you ever, ever learn that?’ And I feel exactly that way now, when kids come and play the Ligeti Études. I don’t know how they do it.”
KS: But we are still in awe of Emanuel Ax.