Monday, March 09, 2009

Brahms, Bronfman powerful

From the Cincinnati Enquirer on Friday, March 6, 2009
By Janelle Gelfand

Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2 is a work of symphonic scope, and fiendishly difficult for the pianist. So to have Yefim Bronfman, one of the greatest pianists on the planet, perform Brahms' Second with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, it was bound to be an event.

And so it was. On Thursday in Music Hall, Bronfman delivered a powerhouse performance of the Second, yet the searing drama that he summoned was balanced by moments of unforgettable beauty.

Paavo Järvi was on the podium for a program that included two folkloric works by Bartok.
Some of the appeal of Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major is its rich orchestral canvas, in which piano and orchestra are equal partners. The noble horn theme that opened the first movement was warmly shaped (Thomas Sherwood), and Bronfman answered with a view that was impassioned and "symphonic" from the outset.

He built massive sonorities in the piano, climbing summit after summit thrillingly in an endurance test of power.

Yet his sound was never harsh and the depth of his musicianship and intensity of concentration were always evident.

The heart of this concerto is its songful slow movement, with its beautiful cello solo. Guest cellist Ilya Finkelshteyn, principal cello of the Baltimore Symphony, unveiled a radiant tone and the intimate collaboration with pianist and orchestra glowed.

The finale was all sun and sparkle. The pianist played with stunning lightness, yet with enough weight to match the orchestra. Järvi's leadership was seamless, and the orchestra responded with polished, sonorous playing. With the crowd instantly on its feet, Bronfman went around the piano to shake the cellist's hand.

Järvi opened with Bartok's "Two Portraits." As soloist, concertmaster Timothy Lees approached the melodious first movement with a sweet sound and deeply felt phrasing.

Bartok's Dance Suite was an exuberant showpiece, and Järvi wonderfully illuminated its earthy Hungarian rhythms and folk tunes.

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