Call it the consolation of the classics: the fundamental pleasure of classical music is the satisfaction of hearing a familiar and enduring composition unfold in time, all the notes falling into place. Predictable? Certainly, in the same way that rereading a beloved book, cooking a favorite meal, visiting well-known galleries in a museum are. Yet in the hands of a superior artist, the experience is less predictable, and so more satisfying.
Wednesday night at Carnegie Hall, the great Emanuel Ax will play an all-Beethoven program—maybe the most predictable of any classical concert experience. But what recommends Ax to audiences is not his technical proficiency, which is considerable, but his thinking, his musical intelligence. Ax’s insight into the music, his opinions about the “Pathétique” and “Appassionata” sonatas, and other works, will leaven the familiar run of notes with tension, surprise, and even greater satisfactions.
Emanuel Ax plays Beethoven 8 p.m. Wednesday at Carnegie Hall. carnegiehall.org