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2019.06.25 Wigmore Hall, Emanuel Ax 70th Birthday Concert

Wigmore Hall, London

Emanuel Ax 70th Birthday Concert

25 June 2019

Emanuel Ax, piano

Simon Keenlyside, baritone

Dover Quartet


A celebration of Emanuel Ax’s 70th birthday devoted to Schumann, with Sir Simon Keenlyside singing Dichterliebe and members of the Dover Quartet joining Ax for two favourite chamber works. As a soloist, the pianist himself performs an early set of character pieces.


Robert Schumann

Arabeske in C Op. 18

Piano Quarter in E flat Op. 47


Fantasiestücke Op. 12

Dichterliebe Op. 48


Piano Quintet in E flat Op. 44


Photo Gallery


Sound bites

theartsdesk.com, 26.06.19, Gavin Dixon

“…Keenlyside… is never less than passionate, and delivered Heine’s pained texts with a rare intensity. His voice is maturing elegantly, losing some purity of tone, and evenness across the registers, but gaining character and burnish, ideal for Schumann’s lingering lines….”

classicalsource.com, 25.06.19, Colin Anderson

5 stars

“…In Dichterliebe – ravishing settings of sixteen poems by Heinrich Heine – Ax and Simon Keenlyside made a dream partnership, the singer vivid in his word-painting, whether outgoing or confiding, and Ax, for all that the piano was placed at an oblique angle with its lid on the shortest stick, illuminated the piano-writing with superfine touch and impressionistic colours. Singing from memory, Keenlyside was amazing, so deeply involved, creating an opera. He was restless too, literally striding the boards and with hand gestures, yet it all belonged, so too the brow-mopping, and if ‘Ich grolle nicht’ (“I bear no grudge, though my heart is breaking”) was frightening in its intensity and fearsome fortissimos, then ‘Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen’ was a model of mezza voce and tender pianism…….”

The Guardian, 27.06.19, Andrew Clements

4 stars

“…And when he partnered Simon Keenlyside in Dichterliebe, the quiet poise of Ax’s playing, especially in the solo postludes that are such a feature of this song-cycle, contrasted tellingly with the baritone’s more intense, sometimes almost histrionic approach….”

The Times, 26.06.19, Geoff Brown   (fee payable)

4 stars

“…Keenlyside, however, offered something else. Heine’s love poems scarcely record unalloyed bliss, so dramatic fervour in delivery is justified….”

Bachtrack, 30.06.19, Nahoko Gotoh

“…When Ax brought Simon Keenlyside on stage for Dichterliebe, however, the intensity level in the hall shot up. What is amazing about this singer is the way he takes risks, bringing visceral power to the performance. It was a commanding performance and the audience lived every twist and turn of the brooding poet. Words were super clear, even from the back row, and the intensity of the emotions was palpable…. In Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome, one could almost see the solemn Cologne Cathedral by the Rhine, and in the following Ich grolle nicht (I bear no grudge), Keenlyside was almost singing through gritted teeth and we felt the poet’s pain…..”

The Spectator, 06.07.19, Alexandra Coghlan

“…..The song-cycle exposed the contrast between Keenlyside’s operatic approach and Ax’s more contained precision. Vocally this was a bitter, damaged Dichterliebe — its closing heartbreak in view from the start. Pacing and emoting, expending more energy in a bar than Gerhaher in an aria, Keenlyside risked and dared, but whether he achieved as much as Ax in his telling solo postludes — speaking volumes without ever raising his — is unclear….”

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