Music Review: BRONFMAN PLAYS BEETHOVEN (SF Symphony)

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by Harvey Perr on October 30, 2021

in Music,Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area

OCTOBER SURPRISE

The last of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s four October concerts was, to put it as succinctly as possible, quite wonderful.

The draw was Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and the audience, there to hear master pianist Yefim Bronfman, wholeheartedly responded — with rapt silence at first and finally cheers — to Bronfman, whose sonorous and passionate interpretation was thrilling to hear. Bronfman goes for the big climax, but still leaves room for nuance and subtlety. And once again, Salonen was so sympatico with his soloist that he brought to the music great sensitivity which kept in balance Bronfman’s tendency to get, shall we say, a bit dramatic.

And the evening began as it ended, with a few bars of Beethoven played with respectful solemnity, which was the inspiration for Anders Hillborg’s Kongsgaard Variations, a gentle work of quiet dignity, written as a tribute to Napa vintner John Kongsgaard. Salonen’s limpid style was perfect for Hillborg’s score. The piece was receiving its SF Symphony Premiere.

The surprise of the evening, particularly to the uninitiated, was Richard Strauss’s Symphony for Winds. The piece was composed in his later years, started during World War ll and completed almost immediately afterward, when Strauss was reviled for his Nazi sympathies, and which, interestingly, in retrospect, ends not on a note of triumph but rather on a note of resignation, if we indeed want to read into it his feelings about the final years of the war. Because the piece was unfamiliar, it was a double surprise. And it was played with a sweeping sadness by the wind section of the orchestra under Salonen’s controlled direction.

Bronfman Plays Beethoven
San Francisco Symphony | Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Avenue
ends on October 30, 2021
for tickets, call 415-864-6000 or visit SFS

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