Yefim Bronfman Performs The Beethoven Piano Concertos with the NY Phil, Beg. Tonight
The New York Philharmonic will conclude its 2013-14 subscription season with The Beethoven Piano Concertos: A Philharmonic Festival, featuring The Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in- Residence Yefim Bronfman and conducted by Alan Gilbert, today, June 11-28, 2014.
Over the course of the three-week festival, Mr. Bronfman will perform the complete Beethoven Piano Concerto cycle and the Triple Concerto with Principal Cello Carter Brey and Concertmaster Glenn Dicterow, in his final appearances as Concertmaster before concluding his 34-year tenure. The Festival will also feature the World Premieres of Lyra by Anthony Cheung and Songs by Sean Shepherd, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic as part of The Marie-Jose?e Kravis Prize for New Music, pairing the master composer's concertos with new commissions now entering the repertoire.
"It was always a dream of mine to play the Beethoven cycle with a major orchestra like the New York Philharmonic," Yefim Bronfman added. "I've practiced this music every day since I was a child, and the more I practice it, the more I struggle, and the more questions I have, and the fewer answers I get."
"Everything Beethoven touched became iconic in its genre," Alan Gilbert said. "Beethoven's five piano concertos are a canon that I think deserve to be held in a special category among all piano concertos. It's fascinating to see one performer treat all five concertos in one fell swoop."
In the opening program of The Beethoven Piano Concertos, Alan Gilbert conducts Beethoven's Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 4, with Mr. Bronfman as soloist, and the World Premiere-New York Philharmonic Commission of Anthony Cheung's Lyra, Wednesday, June 11, 2014, at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, June 12 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, June 13 at 8:00 p.m.; and Saturday, June 14 at 8:00 p.m.
Anthony Cheung is one of the composers whom inaugural Kravis Prize for New Music recipient Henri Dutilleux (1916-2013) selected to share the proceeds of his honor, and Mr. Cheung dedicated Lyra to Dutilleux's memory. Lyra is a response to Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto and the theory that it reflects the narrative of Orpheus in the underworld taming the Furies with his lyre. "The strumming or plucking of a lyre: if western music has an origin myth, the lyre is inextricably linked to it," writes Mr. Cheung in his program note. "From a simple action upon an instrument comes the mythology of music's power to tame, sway, placate, and console."
"Having attended many of the Philharmonic's CONTACT! concerts since their inception, as well as very memorable performances with the full Orchestra of newer works, I've already been extremely impressed with and thankful for Alan Gilbert's vision for new music," Anthony Cheung said. "The premiere of Lyra will follow on the heels of the inaugural NY PHIL BIENNIAL, expanding the scope of activities to an unprecedented level and making it the rival of the great international new music festivals."
"When I go back to Beethoven after playing a new work by a living composer," Yefim Bronfman said, "the new music highlights Beethoven's adventurousness, and I realize that maybe his music is even more modern than what we play today."
The Beethoven Piano Concertos: A Philharmonic Festival continues June 18-21, 2014, when Alan Gilbert leads Beethoven's Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3, with Yefim Bronfman as soloist, and the World Premiere-New York Philharmonic Commission of Sean Shepherd's Songs; the Festival concludes June 24-28, 2014, when Alan Gilbert leads Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor, with Yefim Bronfman as soloist, and Beethoven's Triple Concerto, with Yefim Bronfman, Concertmaster Glenn Dicterow, and Principal Cello Carter Brey.
The Beethoven Piano Concertos is the first confluence of the Philharmonic's multi-week festival and Artist-in-Residence position, two initiatives Alan Gilbert launched at the beginning of his tenure in the 2009-10 season. These initiatives were also launched with the Composer-in- Residence posts and CONTACT!, the new-music series, with the goal of broadening the range of artistic influences at the Philharmonic. In past seasons, Philharmonic festivals have included The Russian Stravinsky (conducted by Valery Gergiev), Hungarian Echoes (conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen), The Modern Beethoven (conducted by David Zinman), and The Bach Variations (conducted by Masaaki Suzuki, Alan Gilbert, Andra?s Schiff, and Bernard Labadie).
- Pre-Concert Talks
Writer and music historian Harvey Sachs will introduce the program. Pre-Concert Talks are $7; discounts available for multiple talks, students, and groups. They take place one hour before these performances in the Helen Hull Room, unless otherwise noted. Attendance is limited to 90 people. Information: nyphil.org/preconcert or (212) 875-5656.
- Insights Series Event - "The Pinnacle of Cycles: Pianist Yefim Bronfman Speaks on Beethoven's Piano Concertos"
The Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence Yefim Bronfman discusses The Beethoven Piano Concertos: A Philharmonic Festival, his first-ever cycle of this august oeuvre with the New York Philharmonic, which includes the Triple Concerto, the work with which he made his Philharmonic debut 35 years ago.
Tickets for Insights Series events are free; subscribers, Friends at the Affiliate level and above, and Patrons may request reserved seating by e-mailing AdultEd@nyphil.org. Space is limited.
- National and International Radio Broadcast
The program will be broadcast the week of July 6, 2014,* on The New York Philharmonic This Week, a radio concert series syndicated weekly to more than 300 stations nationally, and to 122 outlets internationally, by the WFMT Radio Network.
The 52-week series, hosted by actor Alec Baldwin, is generously underwritten by The Kaplen Brothers Fund, the Audrey Love Charitable Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Philharmonic's corporate partner, MetLife Foundation. The broadcast will be available on the Philharmonic's Website, nyphil.org. The program is broadcast locally in the New York metropolitan area on 105.9 FM WQXR on Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. Information subject to change. *Check local listings for broadcast and program information.
Music Director Alan Gilbert began his New York Philharmonic tenure in September 2009, the first native New Yorker in the post. He and the Philharmonic have introduced the positions of The Marie-Jose?e Kravis Composer-in-Residence and The Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in- Residence; CONTACT!, the new-music series; and, beginning in the spring of 2014, the NY PHIL BIENNIAL.
In addition to inaugurating the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, in the 2013-14 season Alan Gilbert conducts Mozart's three final symphonies; the U.S. Premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage's Frieze coupled with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony; world premieres; an all-Britten program celebrating the composer's centennial; the score from 2001: A Space Odyssey as the film was screened; and a staged production of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd starring Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson. He continues The Nielsen Project - the multi-year initiative to perform and record the Danish composer's symphonies and concertos, the first release of which was named by The New York Times as among the Best Classical Music Recordings of 2012 - and presides over the ASIA / WINTER 2014 tour. Last season's highlights included Bach's B-minor Mass; Ives's Fourth Symphony; the EUROPE / SPRING 2013 tour; and the season-concluding A Dancer's Dream, a multidisciplinary reimagining of Stravinsky's The Fairy's Kiss and Petrushka, created by Giants Are Small and starring New York City Ballet principal dancer Sara Mearns.
Mr. Gilbert is Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies and holds the William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies at The Juilliard School. Conductor laureate of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and principal guest conductor of Hamburg's NDR Symphony Orchestra, he regularly conducts leading orchestras around the world. He made his acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut conducting John Adams's Doctor Atomic in 2008, the DVD of which received a Grammy Award. Rene?e Fleming's recent Decca recording Poe?mes, on which he conducted, received a 2013 Grammy Award. His recordings have received top honors from the Chicago Tribune and Gramophone magazine. In May 2010 Mr. Gilbert received an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from The Curtis Institute of Music and in December 2011, Columbia University's Ditson Conductor's Award for his "exceptional commitment to the performance of works by American composers and to contemporary music."
As the 2013-14 Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic, Yefim Bronfman plays concertos by composers ranging from Tchaikovsky to Magnus Lindberg; appears in chamber concerts featuring works by Marc-Andre? Dalbavie, Marc Neikrug, Schubert, Barto?k, and others; traveled on the ASIA / WINTER 2014 tour, performing Magnus Lindberg's Piano Concerto No. 2; and concludes the season with The Beethoven Piano Concertos: A Philharmonic Festival. Other highlights of Mr. Bronfman's 2013-14 season include a tour with Pinchas Zukerman to Ottawa, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Berkeley, and Vancouver; performing Beethoven with conductor Zubin Mehta at the Berlin Philharmonic's new spring residency in Baden-Baden; returns to the orchestras of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Boston, as well as Paris, Munich, Berlin, and Amsterdam; and a tour of Australia with Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra as part of its worldwide centenary celebrations. Mr. Bronfman was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009 for his recording of Esa-Pekka Salonen's Piano Concerto, with Mr. Salonen conducting (released on Deutsche Grammophon), having received a Grammy in 1997 for his recording of the three Barto?k piano concertos with Mr. Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. His performance of Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto with Andris Nelsons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra from the 2011 Lucerne Festival is now available on DVD. His most recent CD release is Lindberg's Piano Concerto No. 2, commissioned for him and performed by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Alan Gilbert, on the Dacapo label. Born in Tashkent, in the Soviet Union, in 1958, Yefim Bronfman immigrated to Israel with his family in 1973. There he studied with pianist Arie Vardi, head of the Rubin Academy of Music at Tel Aviv University. He later studied in the United States, at The Juilliard School, Marlboro, and The Curtis Institute of Music, and with Rudolf Firkusny, Leon Fleisher, and Rudolf Serkin. He became an American citizen in July 1989. He last appeared with the Philharmonic in January 2014 and on the ASIA / WINTER 2014 tour performing Magnus Lindberg's Piano Concerto No. 2, led by Alan Gilbert. On May 23, 2014, Mr. Bronfman will perform a chamber music concert, co-presented with 92nd Street Y, alongside Philharmonic musicians in works by Schubert, Barto?k, and Brahms.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) had already established his reputation as a piano virtuoso in Vienna by the time he premiered his Piano Concerto No. 1 (1795, rev. 1800 - it was actually the second he wrote, but numbered as such because it was published first). He left us no fewer than three cadenzas for the first movement alone - a reminder that he was aware of his own prodigious pianistic abilities and how these might translate into income-producing performances. Things to note as you listen include the very long orchestral introduction, after which the piano finally enters: some Mozart-inspired measures, followed by cascading keyboard runs; an introspective and deeply felt lyrical slow movement; and a spirited concluding Rondo. The New York Symphony (which later merged with the New York Philharmonic) first presented the concerto in 1918, featuring pianist Alfred Cortot conducted by Walter Damrosch; Christoph von Dohna?nyi led Radu Lupu in the most recent presentation at Avery Fisher Hall in 2013.
Born in 1982 in San Francisco, California, composer and pianist Anthony Cheung is artistic director and pianist of New York's Talea Ensemble, and his music has been performed by ensembles as diverse the Minnesota Orchestra, Ensemble InterContemporain, and eighth blackbird. Among his numerous honors are first prize and public prize at the 6th International Dutilleux Competition in 2008, the Charles Ives Fellowship and Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2003 and 2006), several ASCAP awards, and the prestigious 2012-13 Rome Prize. Mr. Cheung was one of the composers whom inaugural Kravis Prize for New Music recipient Henri Dutilleux selected to share the proceeds of his honor, through which Mr. Cheung received the Philharmonic commission for Lyra, receiving its World Premiere in these performances. Lyra references the theory that Beethoven's Fourth retells the myth of Orpheus taming the Furies in the underworld with his lyre, and uses recorded samples of lyre- like instruments from around the world. Mr. Cheung states: "Apollo with his lyre, truth emanating from its well-proportioned vibrations. Orpheus soothing all manner of flora and fauna, as well as the keepers of the underworld. From a simple action upon an instrument comes the mythology of music's power to tame, sway, placate, and console." Lyra also pays homage to Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto - Mr. Cheung's favorite; he writes, "When I heard that my new piece would be paired with it, I thought about creating some sort of dialogue or response. I'd long been fascinated by the supposed narrative of Orpheus taming the Furies in Hades as the basis for the second movement of the concerto, a view promulgated by musicians and musicologists since the mid-19th Century. One listens to the music very differently when confronted with this depiction, and I wanted to respond directly to the musical signs and symbols behind these extra-musical associations." This is the first time the Philharmonic will perform one of Mr. Cheung's works.
After a private 1807 premiere of the Piano Concerto No. 4 (1806) at the palace of his patron, Prince Josef Franz von Lobkowitz, Ludwig van Beethoven played the work publicly in 1808; but due to his increasing deafness it was to be his last such performance. (The concert on which the concerto appeared was an extraordinary, all-Beethoven, four-hour marathon that also included his Fifth and Sixth symphonies, the Choral Fantasy, sections of the Mass in C, and a concert aria. All this in an unheated hall in late December.) The dedication had been promised to Baron Ignaz von Gleichenstein, but when the concerto was published, the dedicatee was Archduke Rudolph, Beethoven's longtime friend. Ever the iconoclast, Beethoven began his concerto with an unaccompanied gentle introduction by the piano, followed by the orchestra playing alone and at great length; the concept was at least astonishing, if not shocking, to early- 19th century ears. The Philharmonic's first performance of this concerto was in 1863, led by Theodore Elsfeld and featuring pianist Sebastian Bach Mills; Jonathan Biss was the soloist for the most recent presentation in 2010, conducted by Alan Gilbert.
Tickets for these performances start at $31. Tickets for Open Rehearsals are $20. Pre-Concert Talks are $7; discounts are available for multiple talks, students, and groups (visit nyphil.org/preconcert for more information). All other tickets may be purchased online at nyphil.org or by calling (212) 875-5656, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday; 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 5:00 p.m. Sunday. Tickets may also be purchased at the Avery Fisher Hall Box Office. The Box Office opens at 10:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and at noon on Sunday. On performance evenings, the Box Office closes one-half hour after performance time; other evenings it closes at 6:00 p.m. To determine ticket availability, call the Philharmonic's Customer Relations Department at (212) 875-5656. [Ticket prices subject to change.]