Emanuel Ax named Artist in Residence at Gürzenich-Orchester Köln

As Artist in Residence with the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, pianist Emanuel Ax will present a range of repertoire over the course of the 2020/21 season, including Mozart and Brahms piano concertos, chamber works by Brahms and Schumann, and Andrew Norman’s fantasy for piano and orchestra, Suspend, which was written for Emanuel, and premiered by him with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

In an interview with journalist Michael Struck-Schloen for the orchestra’s website, Emanuel spoke – among other things – about the spirit of Norman’s concerto, and explains some of the links with Brahms.

Michael Struck-Schloen: Is it an anti-concerto?

Emanuel Ax: In a certain way, it is. But Brahms plays a role here too. A few years ago, I asked several composers, including Brett Dean, Anders Hillborg and Nico Muhly, to write new works subtly related to Brahms; compositions which I could then interpolate between his piano works, cello pieces or songs. In the preface to his score, Andrew Norman writes that he imagines the soloist to be a kind of Brahms-like loner, who starts improvising for himself, at first imagining very gentle sounds and then an entire orchestra, which then gradually begins to play. However, at the high point of the action, the orchestra almost seems poised to eat the pianist! Here, two tone constellations play a role which were very important to Brahms and his friends: FAE (frei, aber einsam – free yet lonely), the motto of violinist Joseph Joachim, and FAF (frei, aber froh – free yet glad), Brahms’ own motto. I then combined Norman’s Suspend in one concert with the B-flat major Piano Concerto by Brahms. In Cologne, I will play both pieces in two different concerts, combining Norman’s Suspend with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22!

Read the full interview here.

View Emanuel Ax’s Artist in Residence concerts here.

Emanuel’s residency was announced concurrently with the orchestra’s full 2020/21 season. Further highlights of the season include Karina Canellakis conducting Beethoven Symphony No. 1 and Bartók Bluebeard’s Castle, Harry Ogg – the orchestra’s Assistant Conductor – directing a staged concert of Tchaikovsky’s Ballet suite from The Nutcracker, and Gergely Madaras leading a programme of chamber music by György Kurtág.

View the full 2020/21 season here.

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