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Award-Winning Piano Legend Emanuel Ax Returns to the Houston Symphony to Perform Beethoven

HOUSTON (Nov. 1, 2019) – The Houston Symphony welcomes back legendary, seven-time Grammy Award-winning pianist Emanuel Ax in Ax Plays Beethoven. Ax takes center stage in Jones Hall at 8 p.m. Nov. 15 and Nov. 16, and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 17.

Undisputedly one of the greatest pianists currently performing on the world stage, Ax marks his return to the Houston Symphony by performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1. In this early masterpiece, Beethoven harks back to Mozart and Haydn while also surprising audiences with his revolutionary musical ideas. Joining Ax and the Houston Symphony is internationally renowned guest conductor and Houston favorite Fabien Gabel, music director of the Quebec Symphony as well as the innovative Orchestre Français des Jeunes. This performance marks Gabel’s first appearance this season with the Houston Symphony; he returns to close out the Classical Series in May.

After opening with the brilliance of Ax’s Beethoven, Gabel leads the Houston Symphony in Brahms’ gorgeous Symphony No. 2 in the second half of the program. For Brahms’ contemporaries, the symphony’s warm geniality and heartfelt melodies evoked “blue sky, babbling of streams, sunshine, and cool green shade,” leading some to dub it Brahms’ “pastoral” symphony.

Ax Plays Beethoven, part of the Shell Favorite Masters and sponsored by Fifth Third Bank, takes place at Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana Street, in Houston’s Theater District. For tickets and information, please call 713.224.7575 or visit Tickets may also be purchased at the Houston Symphony Patron Services Center in Jones Hall (Monday–Saturday, 12–6 p.m.). All programs and artists are subject to change.

Friday, Nov. 15, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 16, 8 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 17, 2:30 p.m.
Fabien Gabel, conductor
Emanuel Ax, piano
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1
Brahms: Symphony No. 2

About Fabien Gabel
Hailed as “boldly evocative,” Fabien Gabel is internationally recognized as one of the stars of a new generation of conductors, having established a broad repertoire ranging from core symphonic works to contemporary music and lesser-known works by French composers. He has been the music director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec (OSQ) since 2012 and music director of the innovative Orchestre Français des Jeunes since 2017.

Fabien’s 2019-20 season features debuts with the San Francisco Symphony, Utah Symphony, West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien, and Lucerne Symphony Orchestra. In his eighth season with the OSQ, he leads the orchestra in works by Chausson, Ravel, Duparc, Dutilleux, Aubert, Schmitt, Dubugnon, Rebel, Tomasi, and Poulenc; and collaborates with world-class soloists, including Augustin Hadelich, Juho Pohjonen, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Michael Barenboim, Ana María Martínez, Philippe Jaroussky, and others. He returns to conduct the Houston Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse.

His conducting has taken him across the globe to lead top orchestras and work with the world’s most formidable soloists. Fabien first attracted international attention in 2004 winning the Donatella Flick LSO Conducting Competition, which subsequently led to his appointment as the London Symphony Orchestra’s assistant conductor for two seasons. The LSO has since regularly engaged him as a guest conductor.

Born in Paris into a family of accomplished musicians, Fabien began studying trumpet at age 6, honing his skills at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, which awarded him a First Prize in trumpet in 1996, and later at the Musik Hochschule of Karlsruhe. He went on to play in several Parisian orchestras under the direction of prominent conductors such as Pierre Boulez, Sir Colin Davis, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Sir Simon Rattle, and Bernard Haitink. In 2002, Fabien pursued his interest in conducting at the Aspen Music Festival and School, where he studied with David Zinman, who invited him to appear as a guest conductor at the Festival in 2009. He has worked as an assistant to Haitink and Davis.

About Emanuel Ax
Born in modern day Lvov, Poland, Emanuel Ax moved to Winnipeg, Canada, with his family when he was a young boy. His studies at The Juilliard School were supported by the sponsorship of the Epstein Scholarship Program of the Boys Clubs of America, and he subsequently won the Young Concert Artists Award. He captured public attention in 1974 when he won the first Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv. In 1975, he won the Michaels Award of Young Concert Artists, followed four years later by the coveted Avery Fisher Prize.

Highlights of the 2019–20 season include a European summer festivals tour with the Vienna Philharmonic and long-time collaborative partner Bernard Haitink, an Asian tour with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, U.S. concerts with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Lahav Shani in addition to three concerts with regular partners Leonidas Kavakos and Yo-Yo Ma at Carnegie Hall in March 2020. Further participation in Carnegie Hall’s celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday will culminate in a solo recital in May preceded by recitals in Madison, Santa Barbara, Orange County, Washington, Las Vegas, and Colorado Springs. With orchestra, he can be heard in Houston, Baltimore, Atlanta, San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Montreal, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis. In Europe, he performs with orchestras in London, Frankfurt, Berlin, Rome, Zurich, Rotterdam, and Tel Aviv.

Always a committed exponent of contemporary composers, with works written for him by John Adams, Christopher Rouse, Krzysztof Penderecki, Bright Sheng, and Melinda Wagner already in his repertoire, most recently, he has added HK Gruber’s Piano Concerto and Samuel Adams’ Impromptus.

A Sony Classical exclusive recording artist since 1987, he has recently recorded Mendelssohn’s Piano Trios with Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, Strauss’s Enoch Arden narrated by Patrick Stewart, and discs of two-piano music by Brahms and Rachmaninoff with Yefim Bronfman. He has received Grammy Awards for the second and third volumes of his cycle of Haydn’s piano sonatas and for a series of recordings with cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

He lives in New York City with his wife, pianist Yoko Nozaki. They have two children together, Joseph and Sarah. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and holds honorary doctorates of music from Skidmore College, Yale University, and Columbia University.

About the Houston Symphony
During the 2019–20 season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its sixth season with Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada and continues its second century as one of America’s leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring, and recording activities. The Houston Symphony, one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas, held its inaugural performance at The Majestic Theater in downtown Houston June 21, 1913. Today, with an annual operating budget of $35.2 million, the full-time ensemble of 88 professional musicians presents nearly 170 concerts annually, making it the largest performing arts organization in Houston. Additionally, musicians of the orchestra and the Symphony’s four Community-Embedded Musicians offer over 1,000 community-based performances each year at various schools, community centers, hospitals, and churches reaching nearly 200,000 people in Greater Houston annually.

The Grammy Award-winning Houston Symphony has recorded under various prestigious labels, including Naxos, Koch International Classics, Telarc, RCA Red Seal, Virgin Classics and, most recently, Dutch recording label Pentatone. In 2017, the Houston Symphony was awarded an ECHO Klassik award for the live recording of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck under the direction of former Music Director Hans Graf. The orchestra earned its first Grammy nomination and Grammy Award at the 60th annual ceremony for the same recording in the Best Opera Recording category.

Eric Skelly: 713.337.8560,
Mireya Reyna: 713.337.8557,


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