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A Conversation with Renowned Pianist Emanuel Ax

Emanuel Ax
Quad City Symphony Orchestra
Emanuel Ax

Mindy Heusel, the Music Director and host of Perspective at WVIK Classical, sits down with renowned pianist Emanuel Ax.

Axe first performed with the Quad City Symphony Orchestra in 1981, after winning the prestigious Arthur Rubinstein Piano Master Competition and receiving the Avery Fisher Prize. He had already established a successful collaborative career with cellist Yo-Yo Ma by this point.

Heusel and Ax discuss the importance of parental guidance and responsibility in the development of musical talent. Ax explains that while he does not see himself in the same position as Yo-Yo Ma, who is regarded as an important figure beyond the music world, he considers himself fortunate to be able to play the piano professionally. He acknowledges learning a lot from his long-time friend and collaborator Ma, particularly in terms of using music to positively influence the world.

Ax shares his journey of realizing that being a pianist would be his career path at a young age. He credits his father, an amateur singer, for instilling valuable musical discipline and feedback during his early development. Emanuel also discusses his ability to analyze the performances of other pianists, attributing it to his deep love of the piano and extensive experience listening to great pianists perform live.

The conversation delves into Ax's approach to teaching and his admiration for the incredible talent and preparation of today's young pianists. He shares his favorite concerto repertoire from composers such as Beethoven, Brahms, and Chopin, although he finds it impossible to choose just two favorites.

As Ax gets older, he acknowledges the challenges of maintaining the same level of technical accuracy in his playing. However, he believes there is always room for improvement in terms of connecting with audiences and serving as a conduit for the music.

Catch Emanuel Ax with the Quad City Symphony Orchestra on April 27th at the Adler Theatre. More info at www.qcso.org

Mindy started at WVIK on the evening shift, one night a week, while still a student at Augustana College. Not long after, the station began overnight service and she took on the graveyard shift for a full six nights. In 1985, she moved to days and began her long tenure as host of Perspective, WVIK's afternoon classical music program. Under her direction, the program has developed into a show focused on exploring new music from living composers, not just from orchestra halls but including Broadway and film music.