the ax man cometh – part II

biking to the schnitzer monday night was one of the best decisions i’ve made in a long time.  fueled by the anticipation of a long-awaited symphony concert (coupled with the absence of rain), i loaded the pannier, hopped on my trusty red steed, and peddled west.  dusk had just begun to blanket pdx, and the winter sky was about to put on one hell of a show.  every passed intersection and turn seemed to usher in another gentle shift above… the orange/pink glow of the setting sun low on the horizon, the substantial clouds merging in and out of one another, a shot of black geese in loose formation, the sudden white moon, the tangled tunnel of bare elms in ladd’s addition.  perched above the swollen willamette, i stopped on the hawthorne bridge to steal a few more minutes of contemplation before it was gone forever.  massive and grand, yet surprising and subtle – there was one adjective which seemed to best describe that sky: brahmsian.

over the past 3 or so years that i’ve been seriously delving into classical music, it’s been hella tough to warm up to brahms.  my initial verdict: too dense and un-melodic.  it wasn’t until my 83rd listen of his second piano concerto that i started to fall in love.  the layered density was still there, but somehow it had transformed itself into a comforting musical snuggie.  and i was totally wrong about the lack of melody – turns out that johannes’ tunes are just more extensive, more complex, and more unpredictable than your standard romantic fare.  i’m glad i came around just as emanuel ax swung into town to work his seasoned magic with the band.  to put it into hipster terms, it’s like tom waits sitting in with arcade fire or leonard cohen playing a set with iron & wine.  i’m not sure there’s a piano player alive who eclipses the status of mr. ax, and he came to stumptown to play one of the most difficult concertos with one of the most brilliant orchestras on the planet.  please, i’m begging you here, don’t tell me you frackin’ missed it.

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4 Responses to “the ax man cometh – part II”


  1. 1 Dan Rasay January 19, 2011 at 11:35 am

    What was Manny’s encore on Monday?

    • 2 classicalbeaver January 19, 2011 at 1:56 pm

      ah yes… once again, as he did on sunday night, mr. ax invited cellist nancy ives to join him for a duet of schumann’s fantasy pieces. check out nobleviola.com for a beautiful take on that unbelievable experience.

  2. 3 Dan Rasay January 19, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    nice! i was there on sunday. at first i was like “wtf is jun doing” when he moved to nancy’s seat… then my jaw dropped and eyes started to tear. absolutely sublime.

  3. 4 Portia Sipes January 20, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    color was unbelievable. blown away. and don’t get me started on the rapid fire fingers of mr. ax. wow.


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