The Polish-born American pianist, Emanuel Ax, was born to Joachim and Hellen Ax, both Nazi concentration camp survivors. Ax began to study piano at the age of 6; his father was his first piano teacher. When Emanuel was 8 the family moved to Warsaw, Poland (where he studied piano playing at Miodowa school) and then two years later to Winnipeg, Canada where he continued to study music, including as a member of The Junior Musical Club of Winnipeg. In 1961 the family moved to New York City and Ax continued his studies at the Juilliard School of Music under Mieczysław Munz, supported by the sponsorship of the Epstein Scholarship Program of the Boys Clubs of America, and he subsequently won the Young Concert Artists Award. Additionally, he attended Columbia University, where he majored in French in 1970. The same year he became an American citizen. In 1973 he won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions. Ax captured public attention in 1974 when he won the first Arthur Rubinstein International Piano 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.
Emanuel Ax is considered one of the best known concert pianists of the 21st century. He is a particular supporter of contemporary composers and has given three world premieres in the last few seasons; Century Rolls by John Adams, Seeing by Christopher Rouse and Red Silk Dance by Bright Sheng, as well as works by Krzysztof Penderecki, and Melinda Wagner. He also performs works by such diverse figures as Sir Michael Tippett, Hans Werner Henze, Joseph Schwantner and Paul Hindemith, as well as more traditional composers such as Haydn, Mozart, L.v. Beethoven, and Chopin.
Emanuel Ax regularly performs duo recitals with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and played quartets with Ma and violinists Isaac Stern and Jaime Laredo. Before the quartet had to disband in 2001 due to the death of Stern, they recorded works for Sony by Johannes Brahms, Fauré, L.v. Beethoven, Schumann and Mozart. In chamber music, he has worked regularly with such artists as Young Uck Kim, Cho-Liang Lin, Edgar Meyer, and Peter Serkin. Ax is also a featured guest artist in a documentary film about the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Peter Oundjian, Five Days in September; the Rebirth of an Orchestra.
In the 2008-2009 season, Emanuel Ax's special projects included a duo recital tour with Yefim Bronfman with performances at Chicago's Orchestra Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Carnegie Hall; a performance with Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma at Carnegie Hall; and solo recital tours in both North America and Europe. Other European engagements included a tour of the Far East with the Dresden Staatskapelle and Fabio Luisi, with whom he recorded the Strauss Burleske for Sony Clasical; and performances with the Tonhalle Orchestra, Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphonieorchester in Munich and Carnegie Hall, the London Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Orchestre National de France. His collaboration with Mark Morris Dance Group continues during summer 2009 partnered with Yo-Yo Ma in a dance work jointly commissioned by the Tanglewood and Mostly Mozart festivals.
In recognition of the bicentenaries of Chopin and Schumann in 2010 and in partnership with London's Barbican, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, Carnegie Hall, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Emanuel Ax has commissioned new works from composers John Adams, Peter Lieberson and Osvaldo Golijov for three recital programs to be presented in each of those cities with colleagues Yo-Yo Ma and Dawn Upshaw.
In addition to this large-scale project he will tour Asia with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra on their first tour with incoming Music Director Alan Gilbert and tour in Europe with both the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and James Conlon as well as the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with Manfred Honeck. As a regular visitor in subscription concerts he will return to Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston during the spring.
Emanuel Ax has been an exclusive Sony Classical recording artist since 1987. Recent releases include Strauss's Enoch Arden narrated by Patrick Stewart; discs of two-piano music by Johannes Brahms and Sergei Rachmaninov with Yefim Bronfman; and soon to be released Felix Mendelssohn Trios with Yo-Yo- Ma and Itzhak Perlman. Ax has received Grammy awards for the second and third volumes of his cycle of Haydn's piano sonatas. He has also made a series of Grammy-winning recordings with cellist Yo-Yo Ma of the L.v. Beethoven and Brahms sonatas for cello and piano. His other recordings include the concertos of Franz Liszt and Arnold Schoenberg, three solo J. Brahms albums, an album of tangos by Astor Piazzolla, and the premiere recording of John Adams's Century Rolls with the Cleveland Orchestra for Nonesuch. In the 2004-2005 season he also contributed to an International Emmy award-winning BBC documentary commemorating the Holocaust that aired on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Emanuel Ax He is currently a teacher on the faculty of the Juilliard School of Music. Among his pupils there were Avner Arad, Dong-Hyek Lim, and Orion Weiss. He resides 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 is a recipient of Yale University's Sanford Medal and also holds an honorary doctorate of music from Yale awarded in May 2007.