Bronfman Plays Beethoven, Part I

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Pianist Yefim Bronfman. Pianist Yefim Bronfman. (Chris Lee)

For the next three weeks, Alan Gilbert leads the New York Philharmonic in The Beethoven Piano Concertos: A Philharmonic Festival, in which Yefim Bronfman performs the complete Beethoven Piano Concerto cycle.

This week features concertos Nos. 1 and 4, as well as the world premiere of Anthony Cheung's Lyra, which was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic as part of the Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music.

Program playlist:
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15
Anthony Cheung: Lyra (world premiere, New York Philharmonic commission)
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58

Comments [1]

Les from Miami, Florida

I was very disappointed in the performance decisions made as regards the two Beethoven concerti as well as the sound of the piano itself. It sounded as if the soft pedal was held down from the beginning until the end of the C major Concerto; and the seeming reluctance to play forte or fortissimo (except when called for in the cadenzas) didn't convince me that this is Beethoven the trailblazer or the extrovert at all, which is what I believe this concerto is all about. The first movement was an Allegro but there was no "con Brio" at all, as is written. Too much prettiness and legato almost made it sound like Chopin. A faster tempo and more accentuation on the first and third beats in the orchestra and from the soloist would have scotched my adverse impression. The slow movement was the highlight of the performance because the creamy singing legato line in the solo part and the equally singing lines in the oboes, bassoons and horns over the strings made for a fierce revelation of this movement's magic. Outstanding playing, this. The last movement suffered for the same reasons given regarding the first movement. I heard an Allegro but not much "Scherzando". For me, Toscanini/NBC Symphony and Ania Dorfman and Leonard Bernstein (soloist/conductor)/Vienna Philharmonic bring out what this performance lacked. The G Major Concerto was hampered by the same approach overall. The opening lends itself to two different schools of thought: either one plays the first 5 bars in tempo or one plays them with rubato. (It's much the same decision as regards the opening two E Flat chords in the "Eroica" Symphony: either in strict tempo or with a brief pause between the two chords. I'm just as happy and satisfied with either choice, providing the rest of the argument holds up as regards articulation and phrasing). The final "Rondo Allegro" movement fared best of the three: the final "Presto" tempo marking...the last 30 seconds or so ...were spot on. The most serious impairment to the performance was the incorrect interpretation of Beethoven's writing "sempre staccato" for the strings that begin the slow movement. In slower tempos in classical notation, the dots should be played as if there were dashes over the notes: that is, as if it were written tenuto and NOT short. In the first movement, the piano has the initial material...a "light year" away from the double exposition that informs the first movement of the C Major Concerto...and the Orchestra has the initial material in the second movement. The cadenzas in both Concerti were highlights, though I longed greatly for the use of more sustaining pedal, which longing was sorely denied. The ornamentation in the C Major Concerto wasn't always literal, but tasteful nonetheless. Artur Schnabel and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's recording with Frederick Stock conducting are the most convincing in the G Major Concerto, followed closely by Rudolf Serkin and the NBC Symphony with Arturo Toscanini conducting.

May. 30 2015 06:51 PM

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