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Union: Yefim Bronfman
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Program
Beethoven: Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13
Schumann: Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op. 26
Tchaikowsky: The Seasons, Op. 37b
Balakirev: Islamey

Performers
Yefim Bronfman, piano

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Having heard him before, I know that pianist Yefim Bronfman can make music that is 100% beautiful. This concert was about 20% beautiful music and 80% pianistic flash, albeit flash of an amazing order. Were there was lyricism, as in the slow movement of Beethoven's "Pathetique" sonata, the Romance from Schumann's Faschingsschwank aus Wien or various parts of Tchaikowsky's Seasons, you could not ask for more -- it was truly lovely playing.

But otherwise the emphasis was on loud and louder, fast and faster. Even in the Beethoven sonata, brilliance for its own sake substantially drowned the music in the outer movements. Delightful as it is to hear the seldom-played Schumann or miniatures like the Tchaikowsky, these pieces suffer from long stretches of the prolixity endemic to music's high-Romantic ethos, much of it fortissimo.

I suppose virtuosos play Balakirev's Islamey for the same reason people climb Everest: because they can. Bronfman certainly can, but why? -- the work has no form and less substance. The encore Scarlatti sonata was charming and delicate, but Chopin's "Revolutionary" etude was too fast and way too loud. A curious and not very satisfying program, overall.

Isthmus, February, 1999
Copyright 1999 Jess Anderson




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