The Seattle Symphony Orchestra presented a concert at the Benaroya Hall, featuring the famous American pianist Yefim Bronfman playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.2
The first part of the evening included as well Richard Strauss tone poem Don Juan, based in the immortal character created by Spanish writer Tirso de Molina. Conductor Ludovic Morlot proposed a passionate and voluptuous version of the work, showing a nice dose of stamina and energy. During the central part of Don Juan, the violins and woodwinds achieved some evocative phrases, with the perfect tempo. All in Don Juan is a contrast, affirmation and negation at a time, the eternal myth and the most prosaic instinct beating in the same heart. That interesting game of light and darkness was nicely addressed by Morlot and the Seattle Symphony. In that sense, we could say that Don Juan was fairly portrayed with all his mysteries and contradictions.
Piano Concerto No.2 features some of the most famous tunes of Beethoven. It’s a masterpiece made for eternity, a prodigious of light and purity. The first movement, in the hands of Yefim Bronfman, sounded delicate and elegant. After the orchestral introduction, Bronfman’s piano was accompanied by a slow paced orchestra, somehow too monumental for the agility of the piano. He played the solo as an exhalation, like possessed by a feeling of fear or anxiety.
The second movement (Adagio) captured the serenity and spirituality of Beethoven, his universal language in a prayer that even in the most intense moments appeared neat and honest. Yefim Bronfman showed then his inspired musicality and a great intuition, coloring beautifully the score with a personal and touching interpretation.
Mr. Bronfman was in the third movement bit blurry and hasty. The orchestra didn’t get fully engaged in the required dialogue with the soloist, whereas the work of the strings was flawless. There was a lack of intimal connection between the piano and the orchestra that led into an asymmetric rendition, almost impressionist. Morlot struggled to put together all that amount of talent and achieved, as commented, his brightest moments in the second movement.
Mr. Bronfman kindly surprised the audience with an encore, a stirring performance of an excerpt from Sergey Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 2.
After the break, the evening continued with the Sinfonia for Eight Voices and Orchestra of the Italian composer Luciano Berio. It is an original work where the singers use their voices as instruments but also commentating the music in a conversational style, not always completely understandable. It could be a challenging music for some people, but Seattle audience at the Benaroya responded with enthusiasm. After a rich and disturbing first movement, the contemplative second created an oneiric atmosphere. Though delightful and suggestive, we missed a better balance between orchestra and voices. The singers were occasionally buried under the sumptuous orchestral sound. The third movement in Berio’s Sinfonia is always an opportunity to explore the boundaries between sound and word and to reflect about the relationship between art and communication. During the last two movements, Mr. Morlot and the orchestra, led as well by Seattle Symphony concertmaster Elisa Barston, demonstrated their versatility and a well-built sound.
Carlos J. Lopez