Emanuel Ax: The Complete RCA Album Collection

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Emanuel Ax has been classed among the master pianists ever since his victory at the inaugural Arthur Rubinstein Competition in 1974. His long association with RCA began the very next year, with a spellbinding disc of Chopin and Liszt transcriptions (“virtuosity of the Michelangeli or Pollini class here”, wrote Gramophone). Over the next 12 years he released 23 albums on the label, spanning much of the great piano literature, and the complete set of his RCA recordings is now reissued by Sony Classical for the first time.

With a 19th-century focus, the collection contains five CDs of Ax’s famed Chopin, five more of Beethoven, several of Brahms, Schubert, and Mozart, and many other classic recordings.

Playing Chopin, wrote Gramophone, Emanuel Ax shows “all the relaxed fluency and tonal elegance of a master pianist”. His performances on that LP, containing the Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise brillante and Fourth Scherzo, were “of a superlative distinction”. Remarkably, Ax was only 26 when he recorded this album, in 1975.

“Deeply felt and exuberant” (New York Times) performances of the Brahms cello sonatas mark his longstanding association with Yo-Yo Ma, while Ax accompanies baritone Håkan Hagegård in Schubert’s Schwanengesang and Die schöne Müllerin. “Emanuel Ax is a diligent and responsive Schubertian,” wrote BBC Music Magazine of a “Trout” Quintet recording with the Guarneri Quartet.

Ax’s “deeply insightful” (New York Times) interpretations of Beethoven’s “Appassionata” and “Les Adieux” sonatas are joined here by the “Waldstein” Sonata and “Eroica” Variations, as well as a complete set of concertos with André Previn and the RPO, and a Choral Fantasy with the New York Philharmonic. “Ax is a first-rate Beethoven player,” wrote Gramophone of his “Emperor” Concerto.

Elsewhere, Ax’s virtuosity takes center stage in a Ravel album including Gaspard de la nuit, while his commitment to chamber music is shown in Schumann, Dvorák, and Brahms Piano Quintets with the Cleveland String Quartet, and a Weber and Schubert album with clarinettist Richard Stoltzman. Many fine concerto performances include four by Mozart, Brahms’s First with the Chicago Symphony, and both of Chopin’s concertos with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Eugene Ormandy.

Of course, there are more of Ax’s legendary Chopin recordings as well, including the Second and Third Sonatas and the four Ballades. The Ballades, Gramophone wrote, are “a reminder of the awe-inspiring calibre of Emanuel Ax’s Chopin”.

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 88985485192

  • UPC: 889854851927

  • Label: Sony

  • Composer: Antonín Dvořák, Carl Maria von Weber, Franz Liszt, Franz Schubert, Frédéric Chopin, Johannes Brahms, Ludwig van Beethoven, Maurice Ravel, Robert Schumann, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

  • Conductor: André Previn, Eduardo Mata, Eugene Ormandy, Pinchas Zukerman, Zubin Mehta

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Cleveland String Quartet, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Guarneri String Quartet, Guarneri String Quartet members, New York Choral Artists, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

  • Performer: Arnold Steinhardt, David Soyer, Emanuel Ax, Håkan Hagegård, John Dalley, Julius Levine, Michael Tree, Richard Stoltzman, Yo-Yo Ma