Pianist Bax to close eighth season of Music Series at Akin

Pianist Bax to close eighth season of Music Series at Akin

Pianist Bax to close eighth season of Music Series at Akin

Acclaimed pianist Alessio Bax will close the eighth season of Midwestern State University's Music Series at Akin. Bax, a native of Italy, is honoring his homeland with an Italian-themed program at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, in Akin Auditorium.

"It's great to come back to such a wonderful recital series," Bax said. He performed for the Music Series at Akin in October 2013 with violinist Stefan Jackiw and cellist Paul Watkins, and again in October 2015 with the Emerson String Quartet. "It's dear to my heart because of my long history with Wichita Falls and my friendship with the Prothro family," he said of Joe and Dale Prothro, sponsors of the series. "They are true visionaries and great music lovers." The concert is also sponsored by the Perkins-Prothro Foundation with the Lamar D. Fain College of Fine Arts at MSU.

Last year, the Prothros and the Perkins-Prothro Foundation made possible the replacement of the university's piano inventory, including new Steinways for Akin Auditorium. Dr. Martin Camacho, Dean of the Lamar D. Fain College of Fine Arts, said that Bax would be the first professional invited artist to perform on one of the new pianos. "The Fain College of Fine Arts could not be more proud to have Mr. Bax perform on our brand new Steinway D piano in Akin," Camacho said. "Having an artist with the international reputation and career as Mr. Bax is an honor to the Akin series, and now it will become a historic performance for us, as he will play as the first guest on our new piano."

Bax said that as an Italian pianist, he has to be creative when trying to come up with an Italian program. "There is almost a total dearth of Romantic piano music, most likely because of the prominence of opera during that period. It's as if Italian composers only became seriously interested in the piano in the 20th century," Bax said.

He will open with J.S. Bach's arrangement of Venetian composer Alessandro Marcello's oboe concerto, Concerto in D minor, BWV 974. "The piece not only showcases this wonderful music but also reveals deep insight into Bach's mind," Bax said. He will follow with Rachmaninov's last solo piano piece, Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42. "This simple theme becomes the vehicle for an incredible exploration of the piano's dramatic potential," Bax said.

The second half of the program will open with Dallapiccola's Quaderno musicale di Annalibera, a 12-tone composition that was inspired by the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, and dedicated to the Italian composer's 8-year-old daughter.

Bax completes the program with two works by Franz Liszt that are connected to Italy by the subject matter that inspired them. "St. Franþois d'Assise: La prÚdication aux oiseaux is at once stunning and elusive, while - in only around 15 minutes - AprÞs une Lecture du Dante: Fantasia quasi sonata takes both listener and pianist on a multi-legged journey through heaven, hell, and earth, with so much beauty and drama along the way. It's always a thrilling ride," Bax said.

Bax is praised by critics for his elegant style and lyricism at the piano. He has appeared as a soloist with more than 100 orchestras, including the London and Royal Philharmonic orchestras, and the Dallas and Houston symphonies. He has recently performed with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Bax made his debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in January.

Bax and his wife, pianist Lucille Chung, a 2013 Music Series at Akin guest, are the artistic directors of the Joaquin Achucarro Foundation based in Dallas, and are the Johnson-Prothro Artists-in-Residence at Southern Methodist University.

Last summer, he launched his second season as Artistic Director of Italy's Incontri in Terra di Siena festival, hailed as "one of the most enjoyable musical enterprises of the Tuscan summer" by the United Kingdom edition of Financial Times and celebrating its 30th anniversary this season.

Bax released Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 & Works for Solo Piano with the United Kingdom's Southbank Sinfonia last year. It is the latest of his 17 recordings, including several featuring piano for four hands performed with Chung.

Earlier in his career, Bax was first-prize winner at the Leeds and Hamamatsu international piano competitions and a 2009 recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant. He is the recipient of the 2013 Andrew Wolf Chamber Music Award and recently received Lincoln Center's Martin E. Segal Award, which recognizes young artists of exceptional accomplishment.

This fall will mark the ninth season of Music Series at Akin, which will open Oct. 8 with the Shanghai Quartet. The quartet was formed at the Shanghai Conservatory in 1983 and has become known for its impressive technique and multicultural innovations, and is considered one of the world's foremost chamber ensembles. Violinists Weigang Li and Yi-Wen Jiang, Honggang Li on viola, and Nicholas Tzavaras on cello make up the quartet.

The Music Series at Akin debuted in spring 2012 with pianist Yefim Bronfman. Cellist Alisa Weilerstein; pianists Inon Barnatan and Paul Lewis; and ensembles such as the Faure Quartett, Emerson String Quartet, Miro Quartet, Montrose Trio, and Escher Quartet, among other notable musicians, also have been guests of the series.

Tickets may be purchased by contacting the MSU Department of Music in the Fain Fine Arts Center at 940-397-4267 or visiting the Fine Arts tickets web page. General admission tickets are $25 for each performance. Tickets for senior citizens and military are $22.50.