Alessio Bax grew up in Italy and lives in New York, but when he sits at the piano he feels most at home playing music by Russian composers.
Bax visited CPR Classical last week while in town to perform Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Colorado Symphony. He played music by Aleksandr Scriabin and an arrangement by Sergei Rachmaninoff in the CPR Performance Studio. And he talked with CPR Classical’s David Rutherford about his love of Russian composers.
“It’s music I can never get tired of,” he told Rutherford.
Bax delivered a stunning take on Prelude for the Left Hand by Scriabin, which you can watch above. The pianist also talked about the skill and beauty in Scriabin’s writing for this piece.
“I find it to be amazing how well he wrote for one hand. You really have the impression there are two hands at play,” Bax said.
He performed a second Scriabin piece from early in the composer’s career, the Etude in C-sharp Minor.
“It’s a very simple, beautiful, short piece but there’s so much Russian soul in it somehow,” Bax said. “It’s somewhat striking that a young man could put something like that on paper.”
Bax’s third piece of the session was Rachmaninoff’s solo piano arrangement of Fritz Kreisler’s “Liebesleid,” or “Love’s Sorrow.” Kreisler, a Vienna native, wrote the piece for violin and piano but Rachmaninoff’s reworking gives it a more Russian flavor.
“He makes it his own. After a couple bars, you know Rachmaninoff’s stamp is in there somehow. It’s much darker, brooding, more Russian.”
Bax also talked about his recent recording of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Mussorgsky composed it for solo piano but Ravel’s colorful orchestration made the piece a symphony hall staple.
The first key to recording the piano version, Bax said, was getting the Ravel interpretation out of his head.