Grammy award winner to perform and teach at Mercyhurst University at WRH


Lisa-Marie Mazzucco photo

Emanuel Ax, Grammy award-winning pianist, will give a recital and teach Mercyhurst University music students in a masterclass which will all take place at Walker Recital Hall.

Jeanette Fournier, Staff writer

For four days, Erie, Pennsylvania, will host famous classical pianist, Emanuel Ax. During his time here, Ax will be involved in several events around Erie, and two of them will be held on our very own campus.
“He’s one of the top five classical musicians right now,” said Nathan Hess, D.M.A., chair of the D’Angelo Music Department. “He’s in demand all over the world.”
Ax will give a masterclass on March 9, at noon in Walker Recital Hall, in which he will coach three local piano students.
The three students are Grace Nowak, a senior Music Therapy student here at Mercyhurst, Andrija Andelic, who graduated as Music Performance major from Mercyhurst in 2015, and who is currently enrolled in Duquesne University pursuing a master’s degree in piano performance, and Deven Shah, a homeschooled high school student and resident of Erie.
The masterclass will feature varied repertoire from the three students participating in it.
Grace Nowak will be playing the first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in F major, Opus 10, no. 2.
“I chose to play this piece for the masterclass because there’s so many details to work on,” said Nowak.
“It will be good to have extra help. There’s a lot of contrast between sections in the piece that I’d like to bring out more. The development has a fast, playful character and it’s fun to play.”
When asked how she felt about playing for Ax, Nowak replied, “I’m kind of nervous, but I’m very excited. It will be an honor to play for him and get some of his tips.”
“If I could ask Ax about anything, I’d ask him how he goes about memorizing and preparing for a big performance,” said Nowak. “I have my senior recital coming up, so I could use some help with that.
Shah has chosen to play the first movement of Schubert’s Piano Sonata in A minor, d. 845.
“Ax knows Schubert very well,” said Shah. “And it will be great to work with him on this piece.  This sonata also showcases artistic ability instead of technique. One of my biggest challenges with this work that I hope to work with Ax on is holding the phrases together over pauses.”
When asked what he’d like to ask Ax, Shah replied, “I’d like to discuss what it’s like to play the piano all the time, every day.
“I’d also like to hear about his opinions on different composers and different pieces.”
Andelic will be performing the first movement of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 11 in E Minor.
“Personally, I really enjoy and connect to Chopin’s harmonic and compositional language,” said Andelic. “Since I was young, I always loved this concerto and this year, I finally decided I was ready to play it.”
When asked if there anything about the piece he found challenging, Andelic replied, “When it comes to technique, in my opinion, Chopin concertos are a conglomeration of technique covered in his etudes.
“Looking just at the first movement, some of the difficulties I find are legato chromatic fourths, broken chord arpeggiations and playing the melody legato while adding notes within the same hand.”
“I am very excited and grateful for this opportunity,” said Andelic. “Being able to play for, and get advice from, a pianist and teacher of his caliber is priceless.
“Ax performed, recorded, and taught this piece many times, and even though one masterclass might not be enough to cover everything, I look forward to hearing and learning from his extensive experience and knowledge.”
The following day, March 10, at noon, Mercyhurst will host WQLN’s live broadcast of a recital featuring Ax in Walker Recital Hall.
Both events are free and open to the public.
For details about the other events Emanuel Ax will be performing in during his stay in Erie, visit the Erie Philharmonic web page.