Courtesy of the Yale School of Music

On Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m., world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax will perform Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Sonata and music by Schoenberg in Morse Recital Hall.

The concert is part of the Horowitz Piano Series, a series of piano recitals honoring pianist Vladimir Horowitz, who left his papers with the University before he died. 

“Emmanuel Ax is one of the most important masters on the concert stage of today. His repertoire is enormous and constantly expanding, and it is our good fortune that he is a generous friend of Yale,” said Boris Berman, artistic director of the Horowitz Series and head of the piano department at the School of Music.

Ax rocketed to international fame after winning the first Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition in 1974. Since then, Ax has become one of the most celebrated pianists in the world, winning eight out of 20 Grammy nominations and the Avery Fisher Prize — he is a “titanic legend,” said Robert Levinger MUS ’24, and “there is no aspiring young pianist who is unfamiliar with him and his landmark recordings.”

Ax has a long history of ties to Yale — the News’ coverage of the pianist goes back to a performance with celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma in Woolsey Hall in 1982 during “their still-young careers.” Ax also recalls performing a “chamber music benefit concert” with Ma, acclaimed violinist Jaimie Laredo and the student-run Yale Bach Society Orchestra in the 1980s, at the time conducted by legendary violinist Isaac Stern’s son, David Stern ’86, he said.

He performed with the Yale Symphony Orchestra in 2000 and has returned regularly to perform on the Horowitz Series since its inception in 2000.

Ax received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Yale in 2007 and is a recipient of the Sanford Medal, an award instituted by Yale in 1972 that honors celebrated concert artists and distinguished members of the music profession.

From 2009 to 2010, the School of Music appointed Ax as a Visiting Professor of Piano. Both of Ax’s children also graduated from Yale — he is a “proud father,” he said.

His concerts at Yale are always “eagerly anticipated,” said Berman, who noted that his performance on Wednesday sold out weeks before the recital.

“I’m always excited to hear Emanuel Ax because he brings a distinct sense of sincerity and humility to everything he plays, a quality that is not always found among superstars of the concert platform,” said Alex Nam ’25, co-president of the Yale Undergraduate Piano Collective.

Ax has garnered a reputation for a “modesty [that] is at the heart of his pianism and personality alike”  according to the New York Times. Though his program on Wednesday consists of pieces he has performed many different times at concert halls throughout the world, he said he is “just working hard and trying to make them better.”

The program alternates between works by Beethoven and Schoenberg, two composers associated with opposite ends of the Viennese music tradition and separated by a century of time.

Ax chose the program because this year is Schoenberg’s 150th birthday, and since the “first Viennese school is Beethoven and the second Viennese school is Schoenberg,” he decided to put the two composers in conversation.

The program will open and close with two of Beethoven’s most well-known piano sonatas: the “Sonata Pathétique” and the “Appassionata” Sonata. In between, Ax will perform three of Schoenberg’s earlier works — the composer’s first forays into atonality — and Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 2 in A Major.

Ahead of Wednesday’s concert, Ax hopes his performance will “be meaningful to everyone,” and he looks forward to seeing old friends, such as Berman and piano professor Robert Blocker, at the School of Music. But he will also be “nervous as usual,” he said, although he is “certain he will enjoy [performing].”

Tickets for the concert start at $31. Yale faculty and staff can purchase tickets for $23, and students can buy them for $12.

Tobias Liu covers the School of Music and the undergraduate music scene. He is a sophomore in Trumbull College from Johns Creek, Georgia majoring in Economics and Molecular Biology.