Emanuel Ax is an experienced concert pianist whose career achievements include Honorary Doctorates of music from Yale and Columbia Universities (Ax, 2015) and winning many prominent international piano competitions. Ax studied at the Juilliard School, he has performed with many leading European orchestras and is a Sony Classical exclusive recording artist. (Ax, 2012)

The program commences with Georges Bizet’s Variations Chromatiques de concert, Ax’s first sentence reads –

For those that like to feather-dust humming the habanera from Carmen with a rose clenched between their teeth might be surprised to learn that Georges Bizet was not only an opera composer, but also a pianist. (Ax, 2015)

This is a refreshing approach to writing program notes, Ax has conjured up a funny image to inform or remind his audience of one of Bizet’s most famous works. Many program notes are written quite dryly and can appear boring to some audiences, Ax has taken care to fill his program notes with funny analogies and clever descriptions which relates to a variety of audiences. Listeners that already have some musical background as well as complete newcomers will enjoy the engaging and insightful writing style. Another example is Ax’s discussion of Rameau’s La Poule –

La Poule attempts to forge a link between the disparate worlds of concert performance and animal husbandry. If the number of works inspired by farmyard animals is understandably low on most recital programs, the number directly descriptive of chickens, in particular, is even lower… (Ax, 2015)

Ax approaches the subject of the piece from a fresh perspective where he provides his own opinion in light humour while still teaching the listener about the piece and the composer. Ax achieves a balance between the descriptive and the technical/analytical resulting in entertaining and educational program notes. (Scaife, 2001)


Ax, Emanuel. Emanuel Ax Biography. 2012. Accessed on 1 May, 2017. http://emanuelax.com/about/

Ax, Emanuel. Emanuel Ax Concert Program Notes. Vancouver Recital Society. 2015. Accessed on 1 May, 2017. http://vanrecital.com/concert/emanuel-ax/

Ax, Emanuel. Program Notes: Emanuel Ax. Vancouver Recital Society. 2015. Accessed on 1 May, 2017. http://vanrecital.com/2015/01/program-notes-emanuel-ax/

Scaife, Nigel. Writing Program Notes – A Guide for Diploma Candidates. The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. (2001). P. 7-10. Accessed on 1 May, 2017. https://wattlecourses.anu.edu.au/pluginfile.php/1436352/mod_resource/content/1/writingProgNotesApr05.pdf