Yefim Bronfman at Carnegie Hall – Beethoven & Ustvolskaya

Piano Sonata No.11 in B-flat, Op.22
Piano Sonata No.7 in D, Op.10/3
Galina Ustvolskaya
Piano Sonata No.4
Piano Sonata No.23 in F-minor, Op.57 (Appassionata)

Yefim Bronfman (piano)

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 18 April, 2022
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

This recital, postponed two months, featured a change in program. Instead of ending with Chopin’s B-minor Sonata, Yefim Bronfman substituted Beethoven’s Op.10/3, and juggled the order of selections so that the evening built up to a highly dramatic account of the ‘Appassionata’. 

Things got off to an exciting start with Beethoven’s B-flat Sonata. The energetic Allegro con brio took off at a furious speed with Bronfman relishing the harmonic twists but managing to keep everything nicely shaped. The gently paced Adagio sang with loving lyricism, as did the ensuing Minuet before suddenly turning stormy in the Trio. The aimable Finale was outlined with wonderful delicacy and clarity, and Bronfman brought equally fastidious articulation and refinement of phrasing to an intense and vibrant reading of the Sonata in D.

Following intermission came a profoundly passionate interpretation of Galina Ustvolskaya’s bleak but starkly beautiful Fourth Sonata. Bronfman sounded every note with astonishing lightness and transparency, highlighting the peaceful, meditative quality of the music and the complex emotions beneath its surface as it alternated between loud, violent passages and moments of rapturous serenity.  

Intensity of a different sort prevailed in Bronfman’s superb and compelling treatment of the ‘Appassionata’. In a performance displaying enormous dynamic range and emotional depth, his playing was wistfully rhapsodic at the beginning of the first movement, warmly lyrical and characterful in the central Andante con moto and brooding but dramatically forceful in the speedy Finale.

 Bronfman offered two Chopin encores: a poetic Nocturne in D-flat, Opus 27/2, and a fiery rendition of the ‘Revolutionary’ Study, Opus 10/12.

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