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I just finished watching the Emmanuel Ax installment
of the Masterclass Media Foundation series. This 2010 DVD
release is one of the “newer” volumes of this excellent
pedagogical series. At a running time of approximately one
hour and 40 minutes, it featured three different pianists
performing three different Beethoven works at the
Verbier Festival Academy.

The first pianist was Samson Tsoy (1988 – ) who played the
first two movements of Beethoven’s “Sonata No. 2 in A Major.”
This piece was nice to hear, because I wasn’t as familiar with it.
It’s too bad that only two movements of the piece were
featured. Tsoy was followed by Nicolas van Poucke, who
was also limited to performing two movements of the
better-known “Sonata No. 15 in D Major,” aka “The Pastoral.”

When critiquing these two artists, I felt that Maestro Ax
was tentative and overly polite, as if he were concerned
about offending these pianists. His musical suggestions
were good ones, but I was surprised by his approach.

I was most impressed by the performance from
Claire Huangci (1990 – ), who played the
“32 Variations in C Minor,” which was another work that
was not as familiar to me. She sounded wonderful and
for the most part, Maestro Ax’s suggestions concerned
the need to vary the dynamics noticeably, from one
“Variation” to the next.

Due to his aforementioned tentative manner
demonstrated on this DVD, I feel that Emmanuel Ax may
be a good, but not great clinician. Nevertheless, this
masterclass was still highly informative and worthwhile.
It’s always nice to know the thoughts of a great musician
like Emmanuel Ax, with regard to great music!

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