Violinist Karen Gomyo is the star of this week’s Sunday concert at Koerner Hall. But the occasion also happens to be the first time Torontonians have the opportunity to hear exciting young Italian pianist Alessio Bax live. It should make for a rewarding afternoon of musicmaking.
Gomyo has assembled a fascinating programme centred on Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla.
The second half is all Piazzolla, including live performances and compositions by Argentinian pianist Pablo Ziegler, who spent a decade in Piazzolla’s quintet. The backup band includes the obligatory bandoneon (accordion).
The first half looks at influences, pairing Gomyo with Bax in pieces by J.S. Bach, Johannes Brahms and Béla Bartók. (Bax plays young Brahms’ second Ballade from Op. 10 as a solo piece, as well.)
“How could I say no to these composers?” Bax asks.
He and Gomyo met two years ago. “This programme was at least one-and-a-half years in the making,” says the Italian, who now lives in the United States with his Montreal-raised wife, pianist Lucille Chung.
Bax and Chung did a piano-duo concert tour of the Canadian prairies this past winter. Chung has performed in Toronto, but this is Bax’s first time in Canada’s biggest city.
It has been nearly 12 years since the Italian won the Leeds International Piano Competition in England, and his concert calendar is probably more filled than it should be.
Unlike many young competition winners, who focus on solo careers, Bax has an equal interest in collaborative work, which has included a lot of concerts with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York.
“Karen (Gomyo) had wanted to play the Bartók Sonata with me for a long time,” adds Bax. (The duo will perform the third-movement Allegro from Sonata No. 1 on Sunday.)
Not that the pianist doesn’t shine on his own.
His most recent disc, of solo piano works by Sergei Rachmaninov, is a model of poise and elegance. Over the winter, he recorded a new album, of pieces by Johannes Brahms. Another upcoming album contains two Mozart piano concertos as well as some solo pieces.
His solo concerts include an Atlantic Canada tour later this spring and two performances — one in Moscow, one in Nizhni Novgorod — of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic and principal conductor, Yuri Temirkanov. “This is really exciting for me,” Bax says with obvious relish.
“I have a tendency to accept too many things,” the 30-something pianist admits. “But, at the end of the day, I’m surrounded by wonderful music. You forget how tired you can get, you forget everything else.”
Gomyo, Bax and company present their programme near Peterborough on Saturday night, for the Lindsay Concert Foundation, before travelling to Koerner Hall the next day. For all the details and for tickets to Sunday’s concert, click here.
(Bax and Chung present one of their piano-duo programmes in Lindsay on may 5.)
Here is Libertango, a taste of Piazzolla and Bax rolled into one, with the help of Lucille Chung:
And here is Bax at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, playing Rachmaninov’s Op. 32 Preludes, No. 10 in B Minor, and No. 2 in B-flat Major: