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The real-life marriage of two great concert pianists, Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung, has resulted in one of the leading piano duos of their generation. UK magazine Music and Arts states, “Theirs is a marriage of wondrous colours and dextrous aplomb, subtly balanced to make a musical performance sound as one.”

Bax is praised for creating “a ravishing listening experience” with his lyrical playing and insightful interpretations. Chung has been acclaimed for her “stylish and refined” performances by Gramophone.

The duo first appeared in our 2020–2021 streaming music series ALIVEmusica. Their program this season includes works by Mozart, Poulenc, Debussy, and Piazzolla.

Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung

This concert is generously co-sponsored by Arthur and Margery Groten.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
Sonata in C Major, KV 521

Francis Poulenc (1899–1963)
Sonate pour piano quatre mains, FP. 8


Claude Debussy (1862–1918)
Petite Suite, L. 65
En bâteau (Sailing): Andantino
Cortège (Retinue): Moderato
Menuet: Moderato
Ballet: Allegro giusto

Claude Debussy (Léon Roques)
La plus lente, L. 121
La fille aux cheveux de lin, L. 117 (from Preludes, Book 1)

Astor Piazzolla (Bax-Chung)
Three Tangos
Lo que vendrá
Milonga del ángel

Program subject to change.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
Sonata in C Major, K. 521
I. Allegro
II. Andante
III. Allegretto

Leopold Mozart was a doting (possibly overbearing) father to his son Wolfgang Amadeus. In 1765, he took his son and daughter, Maria Anna who went by Nannerl, on tour to perform for royal courts all around Europe. The two children would often perform on the same piano, and W.A. Mozart was likely the first composer to write four-hand piano music. Despite Nannerl’s success as an accomplished performer, Leopold did not want her to overshadow her little brother. Leopold taught theory and composition lessons to Wolfgang but encouraged his daughter to settle down and get married. Once she had reached marriageable age, Nannerl was no longer permitted to tour with her brother, who continued to perform across the great European cities.

This sonata was dated on May 29, 1787, the very day that Mozart learned of his father Leopold’s death. The first movement of this piece begins with both performers playing in unison. As the music progresses, the pianists trade figurations in a way that maintains an elegant balance between each part. The beginning of the second movement is much slower and wistful, but the middle section of the piece erupts into a series of fast triplets. The final movement is lighthearted and returns to C major, standing in stark contrast with the movement before it.

Francis Poulenc (1899–1963)
Sonate pour quatre mains, FP. 8
I. Prélude
II. Rustique
III. Finale

Francis Poulenc is a French pianist and composer renowned for his vocal, chamber, ballet, and orchestral music. He studied under the famous French composer Erik Satie and was a member of Les Six. This group of composers was part of a neo-classical reaction to the more radical, chromatic music of Wagner and Debussy.

Poulenc composed Sonate pour quatre mains early in his career in 1918. He dedicated it to his close childhood friend, Simone Tilliard. The first movement opens with a series of dissonant chords over which a lyrical melody soars. This gentle melody is suddenly interrupted by forceful and dense harmonies. The second movement has a more gentle and provincial character. Towards the end of this movement, one of the pianists must maintain a trill in both hands while the other maintains the melody and harmonic accompaniment. The third and final movement is blisteringly fast and references other musical devices used throughout the previous movements. It ends with a quick melodic flourish that arrives on a very dark chord shared between both players.


Claude Debussy (1862–1918)
Petite suite, L. 65
I. En bâteau (Sailing): Andantino
II. Cortège (Retinue): Moderato
III. Menuet: Moderato
IV. Ballet: Allegro giusto

Debussy is a giant of French art music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His music pushed the boundary of accepted harmonic practices at the time, and his keen ear for orchestration solidified his reputation as a master composer. Debussy is also among the first European composers to engage seriously with Javanese gamelan music, often borrowing devices from this tradition in his own music. Though Debussy is known for his experimental harmonic languages, his music is also steeped in traditional techniques and formal structures. He was also deeply influenced by the poet Paul Verlaine.

The first two movements of Petite suite are inspired by poems from Verlaine’s volume of poetry, Fêtes galantes. The final two movements also use formal and harmonic devices that were popular during the 18th century. The music is relatively accessible to amateur performers and stands in stark contrast with his more challenging modernist music. Though the piece was originally composed for piano four hands, it has also been transcribed for orchestra, brass band, and wind quintet.

Claude Debussy (1862–1918)
Arr. León Rocques (1839-1932)
La plus lente, L. 121
La fille aux cheveux de lin, L. 117 (from Préludes, Book 1)

La plus lente, contrary to its name, is not meant to be performed slowly. Instead, the piece is meant to emulate the valse lente genre. Debussy’s inspiration for this piece likely came from a sculpture that he kept on his mantlepiece, “La Valse.” La plus lente was transcribed for strings and premiered at the New Carlton Hotel in Paris by the Romani violinist, Léoni. Debussy composed La plus lente just after the publication of his Préludes, Book I.  La fille aux cheveux de lin comes from this book of preludes, and loosely translates to “the girl with the flaxen hair.” Debussy was inspired to compose this piece by a poem from Leconte de Lisle.

León Rocques was a French transcriber, composer, and pianist. He is known for transcribing the music of Debussy and Ravel. His transcription of La plus lente for piano and violin is among his most famous adaptations. The work was originally composed for solo piano. This transcription serves as the basis for the piano four hands transcription on this program. Other transcriptions of the work for orchestra were outright rejected by Debussy.

Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)
Three Tangos
I. Lo que vendrá
II. Milonga del ángel
III. Libertango

Astor Piazzolla is an Argentine accordionist, composer, and arranger who reinvigorated the tango genre. He brought this musical style into the concert hall and incorporated elements of classical and jazz techniques into traditional tango music. He referred to this new style as nuevo tango. In Argentina Piazzolla studied under the composer Alberto Ginastera. When Piazzolla moved to Paris he studied under the famous music pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, alongside composers like Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson.

The first movement translates to “That which will come” and was originally composed for octet (two bandeóns, two violins, cello, electric guitar, piano, contrabass) and was recorded in Buenos Aires in 1956. The second movement is inspired by the milonga, a faster version of the traditional Spanish dance, la habanera. Piazzolla said this of the final movement:

I was determined more than ever before to treat tango as absolute music. While based on the melodic, harmonic and above all, the rhythmical qualities of the tango, it is free from the socially defined context of its origins at the beginning of the century.

Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung

The real-life marriage of two great concert pianists, Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung, has led to one of the leading piano duos of their generation. To cite the UK magazine Music and Arts, “Theirs is a marriage of wondrous colours and dextrous aplomb, subtly balanced to make a musical performance sound as one.” In 2015, they were named Johnson-Prothro Artists-in-Residence at SMU Meadows School of the Arts.

Pianist Alessio Bax is praised for creating “a ravishing listening experience” with his lyrical playing, insightful interpretations and dazzling facility. First Prize winner at the Leeds and Hamamatsu international piano competitions and a 2009 Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, he has appeared as soloist with over 100 orchestras, including the London and Royal Philharmonic orchestras, Dallas and Houston symphonies, the NHK Symphony in Japan, St. Petersburg Philharmonic with Yuri Temirkanov, and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with Sir Simon Rattle. Bax’s acclaimed discography for Signum Classics includes Beethoven’s Hammerklavier and Moonlight Sonatas (Gramophone “Editor’s Choice”), Alessio Bax plays Mozart (Piano Concertos K. 491 and K. 595), Alessio Bax plays Brahms (Gramophone “Critic’s Choice”), Rachmaninov: Preludes and Melodies (American Record Guide “Critics’ Choice 2011”), and Bach Transcribed; and for Warner Classics, Baroque Reflections (Gramophone “Editor’s Choice”).

Born in Montréal, Canadian pianist Lucille Chung has been acclaimed for her “stylish and refined” performances by Gramophone. First Prize winner of the Stravinsky International Piano Competition, she made her debut at the age of 10 with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Charles Dutoit subsequently invited her as soloist on the orchestra’s tour to Asia. Among the more than 65 orchestras with whom she has performed are the Philadelphia Orchestra, Moscow Virtuosi, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Flemish Radio Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic, Israel Chamber Orchestra as well as all the major Canadian orchestras, including the Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and National Arts Centre, led by such esteemed conductors as Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Krzysztof Penderecki, Peter Oundjian, and Vladimir Spivakov.

Performing together in many of the world’s most prestigious venues, Bax & Chung has appeared in the United Kingdom, USA, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, as well as in Aruba, Barbados, Canada, China, Cyprus, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Korea, Palestine, Russia, and Switzerland. International festival appearances include Verbier in Switzerland, Vid Djupid in Iceland, the opening concert of the Chungmu Hall in Seoul, Korea, the Pau Casals, Castilla y Leon, Denia, Alicante, Torroella de Montgri, and Pamplona International Festivals in Spain, the Felicja Blumental Festival in Tel Aviv, Lübecker Kammermusikfest and Schloss Elmau in Germany, EurOrchestra Piano Festival in Italy, Ottawa Chamber Festival in Canada, as well as Music@Menlo, Mainly Mozart, Bard, Stony Brook International and Dakota Sky Festivals in the US.

November 2013 marked the release of Bax & Chung, their first duo album for Signum Classics. The disc includes Stravinsky’s original four-hand version of the ballet Petrouchka, with waltzes and tangos by Brahms and Piazzolla. Bax & Chung has recorded the complete works of György Ligeti for piano four hands and two pianos on the Dynamic label, for which they garnered the maximum R10 Classica from the French magazine Répertoire and 5 Stars from Fono Forum in Germany. In 2006, they released Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra under Miguel Harth-Bedoya with Michael York as narrator. The duo’s newest album, Poulenc: Works for Piano Solo and Duo was released in 2016 on the Signum label to great acclaim.

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