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Yefim Bronfman at Strathmore

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Brahms / Saint-Saëns, Piano Concertos, Y. Bronfman, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Z. Mehta
Friday evening in the Music Center at Strathmore, pianist Yefim Bronfman made his fifteenth appearance under the auspices of the Washington Performing Arts Society. Bronfman's personalized solo program of Haydn, Brahms, and Prokofiev was most welcome, as he is often heard in the region as chamber musician or concerto soloist.

The first movement (Allegro) of Haydn's bright Sonata in C, Hob. XVI:50, contains quite short figures and thoughts reminiscent of the Italian baroque sonatas of Scarlatti. Bronfman approached the second movement (Adagio) in a simple way by following the articulations given by the composer and adding lyrical direction. Not overplayed, the brief third movement (Allegro molto) was as tight and refreshing as first movement.

Brahms's five-movement Sonata No. 3 in F minor begins quite victoriously for Brahms, with hands intensely at the extreme ends of the keyboard. The kaleidoscope of singing lines of the second movement (Andante expressivo) of this young work, composed when Brahms was only twenty, was beautifully voiced and always in motion, and most of the time floating softly in the upper registers of the instrument. The third-movement Scherzo was earthy, gruff, and even angry. Bronfman was able to express the manic multitude of affections from Brahms's adolescent soul, all while performing with a stunning technical accuracy.

Other Reviews:

Joe Banno, Bronfman puts on a virtuosic performance at Strathmore (Washington Post, March 5)
The second half of the program turned to the 20th century, with Prokofiev's Sonata No. 8 in B-flat. Eric Bromberger states in his program notes that this sonata, written during the same period, in 1944, as Prokofiev's victorious Fifth Symphony heard in this hall just a week ago, is perhaps Prokofiev's private "reaction" to the Second World War. The mysterious first movement (Andante dolce) contained moments of incredible dissonance, with an overall rudderless uncertainty. The short, bittersweet second movement was followed by the final movement, building from playful humor into chaos, with a simple three-note motif midway through that is insanely repeated, until it is transformed into something momentarily beautiful. Within the powerful final chaos, Bronfman, the master of conveying complex, contradictory emotions, was able to derive glimpses of order, hope, and remembrance.

The next recital presented by WPAS will feature violinist Vadim Repin and pianist Itamar Golan, in the Music Center at Strathmore (March 16, 8 pm).

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