Emanuel Ax Returns

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 June, 2008, 12:00am

Emanuel Ax Returns

Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Reviewed: Jun 6

Considering Brahms was forward-looking enough to enjoy ragtime, he might have been amused both by Schoenberg's inflated arrangement of his Piano Quartet No1 in G minor and those performances that push the outre scoring in the final two movements to the limits of decency. This performance, however, never quite lost sight of decorum when Schoenberg's carnival percussion and breezy orchestrations gate-crash but, despite their appropriate speed, the opening movements dragged in long stretches.

There was plenty of fizz in Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin. The piece showcased the orchestra's woodwind players who rarely disappoint. They were equal to the brisk speeds that demanded crisp articulation; from the balcony, however, balance wasn't always in their favour.

Emanuel Ax's first entry in Chopin's Piano Concerto No2 lifted a performance that was never going to lose sight of the poetry. His rich tone maintained a rounded edge, while beautifully spun cascades of notes remained subservient to the prominence of the melody. Rubato was paced to perfection. The slow movement's tenderness and passion were sensitively explored, but the way Ax melted from one to the other was equally telling.