‘Yefim Bronfman: WPAS Piano Masters Series’ on Friday, March 2, 2012, at The Music Center at Strathmore by Jane Coyne

Yefim Bronfman performed a solo recital program at Strathmoreon Friday night that was stunningly beautiful in its simplicity. There was nothing on the stage save a black Steinway concert grand piano. Bronfman walked on stage to applause, and without any fanfare whatsoever proceeded directly to the piano and began playing immediately. With a focus on the music so all consuming that even Bronfman himself seemed to vanish, there was nothing left but the music. It was the music that mattered, and it was all that mattered.

Yefim Bronfman. Photo by Dario Acosta.

The concert opened with “Piano Sonata in C Major,” a splendid and pleasing work composed by Franz Joseph Haydn in 1794. I really enjoy this sonata, which has a fuller and more expansive sound than I normally associate with Hayden, and I don’t recall every hearing it performed better than by Bronfman. His technique is so wonderfully perfected and seemingly effortless that, like Bronfman, it does disappear, which is clearly Bronfman’s intention. What is left is pure brilliance. Every musical nuance is expressed with a decisive precision that is flawless. Bronfman’s fingers seem to spring up and off the keys in a way that, regardless of tempo, leaves space for each note to spin a ringing sound before the next is played, and he plays his instrument more as a conductor conducts an orchestra, so that harmonies and counter melodies present with pleasing balance clarity of expression that is simply gorgeous.

For his second selection, Bronfman chose “Piano Sonata No. 3,” composed by Johannes Brahms in 1853 when he was just 20 years young. A grand and glorious five movement work that is almost symphonic in nature, it is a showcase gift to a virtuoso from a virtuoso. With youthful bravado and courage, Brahms pulled out all the stops on this piece. With its huge rolling chords, dynamic range, and runs that seem to hit every key on the instrument, Brahms needed all five movements just to hold his creation.

As I have often commented, one of the things that I love about Strathmore is that despite its size and its amazingly impressive concert hall, it is really a place where people feel comfortable gathering and sharing the joy of music with family, with friends, and with new friends. Everyone is welcome and appreciated at Strathmore. I stayed in the hall throughout the intermission, partly because I wanted to just sit and savor the experience of the first half of the concert, and partly because I got interested in watching the interactions of the people seated below me. Coming and going between their seats and the lobby, people seemed equally engaged with friends and total strangers. I wish everybody could have a Strathmore. I really do.

Bronfman thrilled the audience with his performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Sonata No. 8 in B-flat Major,” which comprised the entire second half of the concert. Originally every musical nuance is expressed From the very first note, I was astonished by Bronfman.

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Watch and listen to Yefim Bronfman play “Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3,” “Chopin Revolutionary Etude,” and “Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto (3rd Movement).”

Yefim Bronfman’s website.

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