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June 15, 2009

A couple of video blasts from Bronfman

Every time I hear Yefim Bronfman I find myself deeply impressed all over again.

His impassioned performance of Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 3 over the weekend with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has remained firmly in my ears. It was easily one of the best accounts I've heard live of that war horse, which, of course, is what I've thought whenever I have heard Bronfman play it live.

Although others tap into the score's softer, gentler side more effectively (I have particularly fond memories of Bruno Leonardo Gelber producing equal amounts of radiant lyricism and muscle power in performances of the work I heard during the 1990s in Florida), I love the way Bronfman gets such ...

viscerally exciting results in this concerto without ever slipping into empty show-off stuff.

Since encountering his talent the other day, I've been looking around YouTube for Bronfman goodies (that damn YouTube is addictive). So, especially for the benefit of those who missed Bronfman's Baltimore and Bethesda appearances with the BSO, here's a sweeping account of the finale of the Rachmaninoff Third, recorded at a concert in Japan the pianist gave with Gergiev and the Vienna Phil a few years ago.

The second clip contains his encores that night -- exquisitely nuanced Scarlatti and a superb delivery of Chopin's "Revolutionary" Etude (note the dynamic variation he achieves in that piece, where many a player sticks merely to pounding). The encore clip includes a whole lot of applause, so you'll want to do some fast-forwarding to get to the music.


Posted by Tim Smith at 6:21 AM | | Comments (3)


Yes, YouTube can be a problem: you just keep clickin'-clickin'-clickin' and, next thing you know, half of the day is gone! Talk about an addiction that feeds itself...

When the movie "300" was released, I saw one spoof of it on YouTube that was decent, and then I wasted the next 2 hours viewing maybe 2 more funny clips and _dozens_ upon dozens of decidedly non-funny (and non-entertaining!) sketches. Argh.

I remember seeing Bronfman perform with the Detroit Symphony once. I thought he was going to put his hands *through* the piano!

Wouldn't surprise me if he left a trail of mortally wounded pianos around the globe. TIM

I would like to suggest that you retire the term "war horse." One defination of war horse is "a piece of music that is familiar and hackneyed because of too frequent performance."

What is a war horse for a music critic may be a piece of music that many of us in the symphony orchestra audience have never heard in live performance.

Point taken. I'll work on a new term. Thanks for commenting. TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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