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Bronfman Performs Tchaikovsky Sonata

Yefim Bronfman:
available at Amazon
Prokofiev, Sonatas 2/3/5/9

available at Amazon
Prokofiev, Concertos (inter alia)
Pianistic powerhouse Yefim Bronfman graced the stage of Shriver Hall on Sunday, offering a program of Beethoven, Schumann, Prokofiev, and Tchaikovsky. Bronfman had been originally scheduled to accompany soprano Magdalena Kožená, who canceled for personal reasons. The result was an intricately ambitious program emphasizing the artist’s strengths.

Beethoven’s Thirty-Two Variations in C Minor flowed past in a stream-of-consciousness process, with each brief variation coherently dovetailing with the next. A reharmonized theme occurred around the eighth variation, which led a pathway to further expressiveness in a work, perfectly chosen as an opener, ending simply with a succinct V-I cadence. It was a pleasure to hear Schumann’s Faschingsschwank aus Wien (“Carnival Jest from Vienna”), given Bronfman’s vivacious fluency in the extended outer Allegro and Finale movements, which left little room for safety, leading to a gripping performance. The inner Romanze, Scherzino, and Intermezzo movements were stylishly nuanced even if the Romanze was surprisingly doleful.

A highlight of Disney’s Fantasia 2000 was Bronfman’s performance of Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 set to an animated version of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier. Born in the former Soviet Union, Bronfman is indeed one of the top interpreters of Russian music and has recorded the complete sonatas and concertos of Prokofiev: the Second Sonata in D Minor was on the program. What one experiences when listening to Bronfman’s Prokofiev is a plethora of multi-dimensional, crystal clear contrapuntal lines interspersed with sporadic splashes, pops, and dazzles of color. The literal and almost mechanistic interpretive approach that is so effective for Bronfman in this and in Fantasia 2000 flies in the face of Rachmaninoff’s fluffy type of output that we find Charles so frequently maligning.

Other Articles:

Tim Smith, Yefim Bronfman gives brilliant performance of demanding program at Shriver Hall (Baltimore Sun, February 22)

---, Q&A with pianist Yefim Bronfman (Baltimore Sun, February 19)

Jane Norris, At piano, Bronfman continues creativity (The Daily Progress, February 19)

Lark Turner, Yefim Bronfman earns $50,000 prize, comes to Bienen School of Music to teach (The Daily Northwestern, February 12)
Tchaikovsky’s Sonata for Piano in G Major comprised the second half of the program. It is a lesser-known work that is conservatively Classical in demeanor, but the sonata exudes a wideness of pianistic heft and slowly evolving build-ups and releases that would be highly suitable for orchestra. At times it sounded as perfectly balanced as the Schumann selection; at others it traversed Lisztian harmonic boundaries, though never quite going over the top. At all times, Bronfman, with technique to spare, led the piece forward, leaving the audience wishing for more, which they received in a momentary encore, a movement possibly by C.P.E. Bach or Scarlatti.

For those to our south, Yefim Bronfman will repeat this recital program this evening (February 23, 8 pm), on the Tuesday Evening Concert Series at the University of Virginia's Cabell Hall in Charlottesville.

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