- Last week in Los Angeles, pianist Emanuel Ax struck a blow for 20th-Century music by playing the West Coast premiere of Sir Michael Tippett's demanding 1955 Piano Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

So why is his solo program Thursday night in La Jolla no more adventuresome than Haydn, Chopin and Brahms, especially since the La Jolla Chamber Music Society's Sherwood Auditorium series plays to a sophisticated, sold-out subscription audience?

" Mea culpa ," was Ax's reply during an interview last week. "Perhaps every program should have some 20th-Century music on it. I guess working on the Tippett distracted me. I was remiss in the area of contemporary music until two or three years ago, when I realized the excitement in performing new pieces."

The Polish-American virtuoso did plead that the Haydn A-flat Sonata he has programmed is rarely played and little known. Ax fans who don't mind looking over the maestro's shoulder can still procure tickets on stage from the society.

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