Yefim BronfmanPianist

Where is Fima now?

  • October 27-29 BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5

    Rome, Italy

  • November 9 & 10 LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Concerto for Piano and Orchestra no. 3 in C minor op. 37 Concerto No. 4

    Berlin, Germany

  • November 15 BARTOK: Suite for Piano, Op. 14 SCHUMANN: Humoreske DEBUSSY: Suite Bergamasque BEETHOVEN: Sonata Op. 57

    Chengdu, China


  • Review: Yefim Bronfman Plays Prokofiev’s Overlooked Piano Sonatas
    Last Updated: 14 October 2016

    At a certain point in a complete musical traversal — of all Shostakovich’s string quartets, say, or all nine Beethoven symphonies — you inevitably reach the less popular works. On Saturday, in the final concert of a season-long survey of the nine Prokofiev piano sonatas at Zankel Hall, Yefim Bronfman got to the often overlooked fifth and ninth.

    The latter is particularly underplayed, and was the highlight here. Intimate, restless, restrained, it avoids the extroversion Prokofiev is known for: When the music does assert itself, it quickly recoils, as if ashamed. Mr. Bronfman, his touch always sensitive, never seemed pressured. He gave the first movement tender weight; the final Allegro had exuberant spaciousness, then ended with understatement.

    Composed in 1947 but not performed until 1951, when Sviatoslav Richter gave the premiere in Moscow, the ninth sonata wasn’t published until after its composer’s death in 1953. Prokofiev by then was no national star: He had been condemned by the same Soviet forces that opposed the aesthetic “formalism” of Shostakovich, and several of his works were banned from performance, including the sixth and eighth piano sonatas.

    The lucid fifth sonata (1923), like the ninth, is reticent even in its churning passages, and Mr. Bronfman played it with subtle alertness to distinctions of touch: a milky and translucent moment, then a diamond-hard one. He alternated the two piano sonatas with Prokofiev’s popular two violin sonatas, performed with the appealingly straightforward Guy Braunstein, their partnership settled and comfortable.

    This was not the most profound evening: Mr. Bronfman emphasized the textures more than the depths of the ninth sonata, and the surprise burst out of quiet tenderness in the third-movement Andante wasn’t the emotional explosion it can (and should) be. His account was determinedly low-key, bringing his Prokofiev cycle to a close with a whisper.

  • Review A serious Beethoven in John Adams' latest 'Absolute Jest'
    Last Updated: 30 September 2016

    By Mark Swed
    Los Angeles Times
    30 September 2016

    We never need to go far for a little — or a lot — of Beethoven in our concert halls. The Los Angeles Philharmonic (with help from the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela) wasn’t kidding when it began its season last year with Gustavo Dudamel conducting all nine Beethoven symphonies by calling the festival “Immortal Beethoven.”

    Last weekend, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra opened its season with Beethoven’s Seventh. Next week, Esa-Pekka Salonen begins a West Coast tour with his London orchestra, the Philharmonia, playing Beethoven’s “Eroica” in Costa Mesa, Northridge and Santa Barbara. That only scratches the Beethovenian surface.

    Thursday night, the L.A. Phil did it again, opening another season with a Beethoven program at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the orchestra living up to its venturesome reputation by including John Adams in its definition of Beethoven.

    The first L.A. Phil performance of Adams’ “Absolute Jest” was the considerable novelty of Dudamel’s Thursday program, to be repeated Friday and Sunday (also broadcast live Friday night on KUSC-FM and archived on the station’s website for a week). A concerto of sorts for string quartet and orchestra, “Absolute Jest” takes its material from Beethoven’s late string quartets (along with a few lifts from symphonies).

    When the San Francisco Symphony premiered it 2012, I noted at the time that the concerto, written for the St. Lawrence String Quartet, was a great entertainment as long as you didn’t think too hard about it. Some of those who did think too hard wound up being offended by a musical jester toying with Beethoven’s most profound utterances.

    But Adams also happened to think too hard. He reworked the score a year later, adding a new beginning. The problem had been too much Beethoven and not enough Adams. Now there is enough Adams, and “Absolute Jest” implies something that’s less a jest and more serious commentary on Beethovenian absolutism.

    Still, the context needs to be carefully thought through. A beautiful new San Francisco Symphony recording that pairs “Absolute Jest” with Adams’ early, antic “Grand Pianola Music,” for instance, bolsters Adams’ trickster alter ego. Dudamel, on the other had, placed “Absolute Jest” between a magnificent performance of the “Coriolan” Overture (emphasizing Beethoven as revolutionary) and an exceptionally eloquent one of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, with Yefim Bronfman as the incandescent soloist.

    The question now became: Must we deform the past in order to preserve it? David Rieff asks the question, without undo optimism, in “In Praise of Forgetting,” a disturbing new book on historical (and human) mortality. Adams answers with the assertive assurance that, in music anyway, deformation is formation. There is little unusual, he writes in his program note, about composers conversing with history. Composers beg, borrow, steal and cover. They always have.

    As “Absolute Jest” now stands, Adams borrows from himself as a marvelous way into the concerto, which once more featured the St. Lawrence, cautiously amplified. That opening sound world uses the kind of dotted rhythms that Beethoven liked in his scherzo movements but are here heard as if in a dream, an atmosphere of soft string chords, cowbells and strange-tuned piano and harp. In an enticing instant, space and consciousness are transformed, with old and new in surreal coexistence.

    Once the excitable St. Lawrence enters, those dotted Beethoven rhythms from the scherzos of his late quartets and symphonies become manic. It’s like a video game, driving fast through ever changing, ever unexpected landscapes, with sudden turns and all manner of passing scenery. But you always know the country is Beethovenland. Near the end, Adams brings in monumental brass, but he leaves us as he found us, drifting off into microtonal harp and piano reverie.

    Dudamel and the St. Lawrence players shared gamesters’ fast reflexes, sports car enthusiasts feeling for the road and a love of flashy colors.

    In both the “Coriolan” and Fourth Piano Concerto, Dudamel put compelling emphasis on powerful, punchy orchestral weight. But he also could be delicate. When Bronfman opened the concerto with a floating tone, the orchestra came in hovering over the same cloud. Bronfman’s formidable technique made the first movement cadenza a piano show in itself. But it was the dialogue between adamant orchestra and questing piano in the slow movement where everything came together. Beethoven asks unanswerable questions, and both pianist and conductor were like actors in a Socratic dialogue, starting something that, we can now see, Adams has continued for our own time.

    Dudamel began the evening meaningfully with a touching addition, the wistful waltz movement from Leonard Bernstein’s Divertimento, played — gorgeously — in memory of longtime L.A. Phil bassist Frederick Tinsley, who died suddenly on Sept. 19 and to whom the concert was dedicated.

  • Superstar pianist Yefim Bronfman brings his musical magic to Wharton
    Last Updated: 16 September 2016

    By Ken Glickman
    Lansing State Journal
    16 September 2016

    Years ago, solo piano recitals in a classical concert series was common and expected.

    The touring piano artists of the day were many: Vladimir Horowitz, Murray Perahia, Rudolf Serkin, Glenn Gould, Alfred Brendel and many others.

    Now there are just a handful of soloists whose names are familiar to concert audiences. In the past ten years, the Wharton Center series has only presented one piano recital, Lang Lang (September 2015).

    For that reason, the appearance of piano virtuoso Yefim (he goes by Fima) Bronfman on the Great Hall stage this Sunday is unique. Although Bronfman’s name is not familiar to many people, he has enjoyed an illustrious career in concert halls throughout the world

    Piano recitals are inherently dramatic and exciting. The Wharton Center stage is totally blank, save the presence of a shiny black Steinway grand piano in the middle. On walks the soloist, usually in black tails. No mics, no amplification, no hype. But a pianist with the Bronfman’s prodigious skills can fill up the cavernous auditorium with startling volume and beautiful grace and lyricism.

    Wharton’s Executive Director, Mike Brand, says, “He’s a big superstar. He’s been out there with all the major orchestras.”

    Bronfman is a very busy man on the concert scene. This year alone, he’s playing all five Beethoven concertos with the Dresden Staatskapelle, and then going on to solo with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic as well as the orchestras of Boston, Cleveland, Montreal, Toronto, London, Vienna, Edinburgh, San Francisco and Seattle. And that doesn’t include chamber music or solo recitals.

    Wharton’s Brand says, “He’s been on the symphony (orchestras) circuit and has a limited recital career, but he is playing this recital in Carnegie Hall in the spring, so I’m glad he’ll be here to do that for us.”

    Brand adds, “Over the past several years we’ve brought all the major solo artists in for concerts: Lang Lang, Renee Fleming, Perlman, Galway, Joshua Bell. I thought it would be time for Bronfman.”

    At age 58, Bronfman is not slowing down.

    He’s a large hulking man who has a surprisingly delicate touch on the keyboard. But watch out. He can also explode with torrents of sound.

    The world began to notice Bronfman when he emigrated to Israel from his native Russia in 1973 at age 15. Isaac Stern said, “When a talent like this young man plays, you simply have nothing to add.”

    Bronfman studied music at Tel Aviv University but later came to the US to study at the Julliard School and the Curtis Institute.

    In 1991, Stern went on to join the adult Bronfman in a series of joint recitals in Russia, Bronfman’s first public performance there since his emigration.

    Bronfman has recorded many CDs and received a Grammy in 1997.

  • Bronfman stokes a Russian storm in Prokofiev’s “War” sonatas
    Last Updated: 8 May 2016

    By George Grella
    New York Classical Review
    8 May 2016

    Prokofiev’s piano sonatas are an outstanding body of work, music that tests the limits of sonata form, dusting off and polishing up old ideas for a modern age. They are structurally and thematically inventive, full of energy, intellect, and complex emotions.

    The pinnacle of the ten sonatas is the group of “War” sonatas, No. 6, 7, and 8. Prokofiev began these in 1939, and they were finished in 1940, 1942, and 1944, respectively. The title is circumstantial but fitting—despite the first being completed before war reached Russia, they are closely related by mood and expression, and even share some structural ideas.

    Yefim Bronfman played the three sonatas Saturday night at Carnegie Hall, an installment in a series of Prokofiev recitals he is giving there this season. Bronfman is one of the great interpreters of the sonatas, a peer in this music and natural successor in the line that descends from Emil Gilels and Sviatoslav Richter. His astonishing playing Saturday night affirmed that.

    The sonatas are notoriously difficult pieces for a pianist. Played well, their challenge to the listener is their intensity, the disorienting alternation between extreme, even violent, angularity, and a pastoral introversion.

    Bronfman has the emotional musical temperament that can range from wistful to explosive, and a technique that can handle the fingering and the speeds—in fact Saturday he frequently pressed tempos to tension-inducing heights.

    While on the surface, Sonata No. 6 matches tradition sonata form, Prokofiev stretches every structural idea to the limit. The opening bars, with a staggered rhythm in the right hand over crashing octaves in the left, the base moving by a tritone, are like a violent drunk trampling his way down the street.
    The siren call for a pianist in this music is a kind of demented exaggeration, and Bronfman, despite the physical power of his playing, actually maintained an exact sense of rhythm and phrasing. With this, he brought out the expressive strangeness of the secondary theme and the transitional material. The return of the opening theme was not just loud and exciting, but conditioned by a transformative understanding of the intervening music. It was a sonata-allegro movement played with respect for the form, and brilliantly realized in this performance

    This is music about conflict, and World War II is there, certainly. But abstracted through the music, something else comes through—that quality unique to Prokofiev of setting pastoral against mechanical music. The conflict is between man and machine, and the explosively grim intensity at the end of the first two sonatas seems to say that the machines will win.

    Conflict comes in unexpected places, like the Allegretto of Sonata No. 6, where it is colored by Prokofiev’s sarcasm. Bronfman’s touch here was light. Humanity shines fully in slow movements, like the waltz of No. 6, where Bronfman’s playing was soulful, with ideal phrasing.

    The pianist’s range and depth of thought and feeling throughout the concert equalled that of the composer. There was something thrillingly sadistic about how much control he had over the notes, and how he channeled so much force through that. His fierce attack on the last notes of Sonata No. 6 literally threw himself back from the stool.

    His performance of Sonata No. 7 was so astonishing that it produced involuntary cries from the audience at the last, pounding chords of the Precipitato movement. What must it be like to create abstract order when the world is burning around you? That is the sound of this sonata, and again Bronfman’s range was incredible—he played like a machine and like a penitent, capable of both love and murder.

    The music has wild swings of stillness and violence, and Bronfman slowly accumulated a critical mass of unstable material. In the Precipitato, his left hand built a truly awe-inspiring amount of weight and tension, playing with a subtle swing and slowly ramping up the dynamic level and sense of violence. It was like the inevitable, steady approach of a pile driver, manned by Gene Krupa.

    Sonata No. 8, which came after intermission, finds some measure of stability. Victory is on the way, as heard in the third movement, which has qualities both of an 18th century sonata and a triumphal march from a news reel. Bronfman blasted through this with spectacular vitality, but before that, the Andante Sognando was just as spectacularly plangent, a reflection back on disaster from a point of safety.

    Bronfman played one encore, Schumann’s Op. 18 Arabeske. It was exceedingly gentle, understated, and expressively legato, and settled the mind and heart poignantly.

  • Review: Pianist Yefim Bronfman
    Last Updated: 16 January 2016

    19 January 2016

    This is a season for Sergei Prokofiev. The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Miguel Harth-Bedoya and Vadym Kholodenko are winding up recording the Russian composer’s five piano concertos for later release on Harmonia Mundi.

    And on Tuesday night, Yefim Bronfman presented an all-Prokofiev program including four of the nine piano sonatas.

    None of this was boring, because Prokofiev was a man of many musical moods and stylistic adventures.

    Tuesday night’s Cliburn at the Bass program was a demonstration of that variety. It included two of the best-known Prokofiev sonatas and two of the least-known.

    You’d likely never guess that all four are by the same composer unless you knew beforehand.

    The very least known is probably the Sonata No. 1 in F minor. This turned out to be a busy work, mostly in quick tempos, and — the big surprise — with hints of Sergei Rachmaninoff and even Johannes Brahms in the musical thicket. This was not the sardonic Prokofiev of later reputation.

    By the way, the complete sonata came in at about six minutes. No time for tedium there.

    The first of Tuesday’s best-known sonatas was the Sonata No. 6 in A Major. It is often grouped with the seventh and eighth sonatas, the three being called the “war sonatas” and associated with World War II.

    It’s not clear that Prokofiev had this in mind. The sixth sonata was composed more than a year before Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and it could be argued that none of the three (except possibly the seventh) is particularly bellicose.

    At any rate, the sixth sonata has some tough music but also some contemplative and perky passages.

    A big contrast was the Sonata No. 5 in C Major, which was the third work on the Bass Hall program. This is a lovely and mostly gentle work whose playfulness and contemplative mood were a shift from the more rugged music surrounding it.

    The finale was the Sonata No. 7, which, like the sixth sonata, is a Cliburn competition mainstay. Its hypnotic second movement and dramatic finale represent the Prokofiev that most music-lovers know.

    Bronfman was impressive throughout. His evocative performance was mood-setting in tranquil passages and compelling in moments of musical drama. The seventh sonata was a potent conclusion to the scheduled program. The encore, a lovely piece by Schumann, was a strikingly effective shift in mood.

    Read more here:

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