The Berliner Philharmoniker plays Prokofiev, Beethoven and Mussorgsky.
BERLIN. There can hardly be a better word to describe Yefim Bronfman’s piano playing than ’sublime’. When the American piano virtuoso with Russian-Jewish roots takes to his instrument, he sits there, still as a statue: Bronfman celebrates his art with stoic calm, and yet sets off a veritable storm of feeling with great emotional intensity. With regard to his controlled body language, the master pianist fondly remembers his colleague Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli: „He did not move one muscle too many. But if he once raised his eyebrows, that meant a lot. The music must show emotions, not me. I get paid to be a pianist, not a dancer or an actor.”
For his guest appearance in the Philharmonie, the pianist, together with the Berliner Philharmoniker and under the baton of Tugan Sokhiev – Saturday, 12 May 2018, 19:00 (Live stream begins 15 min. earlier), turns his customary imposing technique to Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto in C minor (1800), a key of particular significance to the composer. „This present concerto,” as the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung wrote on 10 April 1805, „is one of the most important works by this genial master that have been published in recent years, and, in certain aspects, might even excel above all others. … with respect to its effect on the mind and with respect to its impact, this concerto is one of the most excellent among all that have ever been written ….” A year earlier, in the edition of 15 August 1804, the same publication wrote: „This concerto incontestably belongs among Beethoven’s most beautiful compositions.”
After the interval, Tugan Sokhiev, music director of the Bolshoi Theatre and the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, has programmed Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (1874). The piano cycle, written in memory of the painter Viktor Hartmann, takes the listener on a musical tour through an imaginary gallery, with the selected Hartmann exhibits portrayed with tone-painting effects and outward, immediately illuminating analogies between the artwork and the musical realisation. The most famous orchestral version of the cycle was written in 1922 at the suggestion of the conductor Sergei Koussevitzky and comes from none other than Maurice Ravel (1875-1937): as illuminated in the original black and white drawings of the piano and, as it were, coloured with the pallet of Impressionist sound refinements, it remains one of the most brilliant achievements of instrumentation history.
* * *
TUGAN SOKHIEV hails from Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, and studied with Ilya Musin at the St Petersburg Conservatory, while also attending the conducting classes of Yuri Temirkanov. In 2000 he won the main prize in the Third International Prokofiev Competition, an award that led to his appointment as principal conductor of the Russian State Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of the North Ossetia State Philharmonic. He attracted international attention in 2002 conducting Puccini’s La Bohème at the Welsh National Opera. Already the following year he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, with Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and in 2004 at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence with Prokofiev’s The Love of Three Oranges.
Sokhiev has been music director of the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse since the autumn of 2008. In addition, he took on the position of music director of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin from 2012 until the summer 2016. Furthermore, he was appointed Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Bolshoi Theatre and Orchestra in January 2014. In addition he regularly conducts at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. As a much sought-after guest conductor all over the world he has worked with the Vienna and Munich Philharmonic, the Philharmonia and London Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw and the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig. Tugan Sokhiev, who was named ‘Chevalier dans l’Ordre National du Mérite’ in France, made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 2010; he last appeared with the orchestra in October 2016 conducting works by Rachmaninov, Rimsky-Korsakov and Franck.
* * *
YEFIM BRONFMAN, born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in 1958, emigrated to Israel with his family at the age of 15 and became an American citizen in 1989. His teachers included Arie Vardi in Israel and Rudolf Firkušný, Leon Fleisher and Rudolf Serkin in the USA. Yefim Bronfman launched his international career in Montreal under Zubin Mehta in 1975; his first concerts with the New York Philharmonic followed three years later. Since then Yefim Bronfman has appeared with the leading international orchestras, collaborating with many distinguished conductors. Recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize in 1991, he performs with such chamber music partners as Lynn Harrell, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Pinchas Zukerman and the Emerson, Cleveland, Guarneri and Juilliard Quartets.
In May 2012 he gave the world premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s Second Piano Concerto commissioned for him by the New York Philharmonic, in a concert at Avery Fisher Hall conducted by Alan Gilbert. Since his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1983 Yefim Bronfman has appeared frequently at the Philharmonie as a concert soloist, chamber musician and in solo programmes, serving as the orchestra’s Pianist in Residence during the 2004/2005 season. In his last performances with the orchestra in December 2014, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, he gave the premiere of Jörg Widmann’s Trauermarsch.
* * *
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)
Symphony No. 1 in D major, op. 25, Symphonie classique
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in C minor, op. 37
Yefim Bronfman piano
Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)
Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Maurice Ravel)