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Pianist Yefim Bronfman at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

Not Your Average Brontosaurus

Yefim Bronfman

The Ramsi P. Tick Memorial Concert Series ends on Friday, May 29, at 7:30pm, when pianist Yefim Bronfman appears at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on Main Street in Buffalo. Born in Tashkent in the former Soviet Union, the Israeli-trained, naturalized American citizen will make his Buffalo area debut with a program of works by Beethoven, Schumann, and Tchaikovsky.

Bronfman has performed to near universal acclaim for the last several decades, including this colorful, fictionalized portrayal of an open rehearsal at the Tanglewood music festival in the late 1990s, which appeared in Philip Roth’s The Human Stain:

Then Bronfman appears. Bronfman the brontosaur! Mr. Fortissimo! Enter Bronfman to play Prokofiev at such a pace and with such bravado as to knock my morbidity clear out of the ring.

Yefim Bronfman looks less like the person who is going to play the piano than like the guy who should be moving it. I had never before seen anybody go at a piano like this sturdy little barrel of an unshaven Russian Jew. When he’s finished, I thought, they’ll have to throw the thing out. He crushes it. He doesn’t let the piano conceal a thing. Whatever’s in there is going to come out with its hands in the air. And when it does, everything there out in the open, the last of the last pulsation, he himself gets up and goes, leaving behind him our redemption. With a jaunty wave, he is suddenly gone…

While many critics have noted the forceful playing of Bronfman, they have just as often mentioned the remarkable poise that he displays at the keyboard, praising his musicianship and his devotion to the music he is performing, as well as his virtuoso pianism. The Beethoven work that Bronfman will be performing is the composer’s early third sonata, Op. 2, No. 3, in C major. Frequently performed by the composer early in his career, the virtuosic vitality of the work makes it a favorite of the three sonatas in Op. 2, dedicated by Beethoven to his teacher, Franz Josef Haydn. Many subscribers to the RPT Series will remember the performance of the same work by Andras Schiff a couple of years back.

The brief but hypnotically beautiful Arabeske, Op. 18 by Robert Schumann develops a nostalgic feel, after a light-hearted beginning. Two works by Tchaikovsky, rarely heard recently in concert performance, conclude the scheduled program. Based on the form of a Ukrainian ballad of the same name, Dumka, Op. 59, begins plaintively, before erupting into an exuberant, dance-like central section, only with the dark tone of the opening returning to close the piece. The nature of the work may well reflect some of the emotional stresses that Tchaikovsky was experiencing at the time. Even though the Tchaikovsky piano concertos, and particularly the first one, are definitely among the most popular and often performed in the entire piano concerto repertoire, his three piano sonatas rarely make an appearance on recital stages. The great 19th-century Russian piano virtuoso, Nikolai Rubinstein, premiered the 1878 Grand Sonata in G major, Op. 37, the only one of the three published in the composer’s lifetime. This massive work once had a firm position in the performance repertoire, but is now more rarely heard, with Bronfman’s performance the first local one in recent memory.

If anyone needs another incentive to attend Friday’s performance besides the rare opportunity to hear one of the greatest pianists currently performing in the world, it should be noted that the artists appearing on the 2009-2010 RPT Series will also be announced. For a limited time only, early subscribers save substantially on series ticket prices.

A limited number of single tickets are available for purchase. Telephone the church for price and availability: 886-2400.

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