Tryon Concert Association Presents

Yefim Bronfman, Piano
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
8:00 p.m.


Suite bergamasque

I. Prelude
II. Menuet
III. Clair de lune
IV. Passepied


Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Humoreske in B-flat major, Op. 20

I. “Einfach”
II. “Hastig”
III. “Einfach und zart”
IV. “Innig”
V. “Sehr Iebhaft”
VI. “Mit einigem Pomp”
VII. “Zum Beschluss”

Robert Schuman (1810-1856)


Piano Sonata No. 19 in C minor, D. 958

I. Allegro (1797-1828)
II. Adagio
III. Menuetto: Allegro – Trio
IV. Allegro

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Mr. Bronfman appears by arrangement with Opus 3 Artists
470 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016

A note on applause: The spirit and beauty of the music will be enhanced for both the performer and the audience by saving your applause until the completion of the last movement of each composition.

Note on the Artist

Born in Soviet Russia in April 1958, Yefim Bronfman was raised in a musical family. His mother was a piano teacher, and his father was a violinist. Yefim started piano lessons with his mother at age seven. Yefim’s musical talent was obvious in his early years, and he was admitted to a school for gifted children in Tashkent, Soviet Union.

In 1973, at age fifteen, Bronfman and his family left Russia and moved to Israel. He met and played for Zubin Mehta and then performed with the Israel Philharmonic conducted by Mehta. In 1974, Bronfman won a scholarship from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation in a competition chaired by Isaac Stern. This earned him a trip to North America where he performed with the Montreal Symphony. Later, in an interview on CBS Sunday Morning, Isaac Stern said, “I think that [Yefim Bronfman] is probably one of the two or three greatest talents to come along in this part of our time.”

Bronfman moved permanently to the United States in 1976 and in 1989 he became a U.S. citizen. He studied first at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and later at The Juilliard School of Music.

Over his career, Mr. Bronfman has become recognized internationally as one of today’s most acclaimed and admired pianists. He is regularly sought for festivals, orchestras, and recital series. Mr. Bronfman is also an enthusiastic chamber music player and has performed with many chamber ensembles and instrumentalists. His expansive repertoire extends from Scarlatti to works from the contemporary era. In 1991, he was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize, one of the highest honors given to American instrumentalists. In 2015, Mr. Bronfman received an honorary doctorate from the Manhattan School of Music.

Mr. Bronfman is widely praised for his solo, chamber, and orchestral recordings. He has been nominated for six GRAMMY Awards, winning in 1997 with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic for their recording of the three Bartók Piano Concerti. His 2000 performance of Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 was featured in the film Fantasia 2000.

Noted for his quiet demeanor, Yefim Bronfman is known for his virtuosity of technique, clarity, beauty of tone, and soulful interpretation of the world’s great piano literature. As described following a recent concert: “He can roar, but he also can whisper. He can conjure a multitude of dynamics, shifting quickly from one extreme to another – making little fuss with the simple opening chords of that first movement and later grabbing hold of great solo interludes with such force that by the end of the first movement … the audience broke an unspoken taboo and erupted into spontaneous applause.”

Notes on the Program

Suite Bergamasque
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

In his youth, French-born Claude Debussy had the reputation of “a maverick” and “a musical revolutionary.” He entered the Paris Conservatory at age eleven, where he spent a decade studying traditional musical rules but breaking them without hesitation. He won the Grand Prix de Rome in 1884, which allowed him to study in Rome, but he despised Rome and all things there. Returning to Paris he formed associations with Symbolist poets whose words evoked impressions of nature, the sea, moonlight, and other elements of nature. Thus, he became known as a tone poet of the art of mist and atmospheric suggestion.

Debussy was enchanted by the poetry of Paul Verlaine and around 1890 began composing a series of piano pieces inspired by a line of Verlaine’s famous poem, Clair de lune. These works were revised and published as Suite bergamasque in 1905.

This four-movement work opens with “Prelude,” which is full of dynamic contrasts, delicate runs, and chords, bringing a soothing and refreshing feel.

The “Menuet,” probably set in the guise of an old style, does not conform to the usual design of most minuets. Rather than being airy and dainty, it has elements of a raw comedy character.

“Clair de lune” is the most famous movement of Suite bergamasque. The title translates to “moonlight” and is played in an expressive and quiet manner that brings to mind a moonlit, peaceful night.

Inspired by French court dances of the 17th and 18th centuries, the final movement, “Passepied,” is written in 4/4 time instead of the usual triple meter. The left hand plays staccato arpeggios throughout while the right hand plays flowing themes, thus bringing this suite to a perfect ending.

Humoreske in B-flat major, Op. 20
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Robert Schumann’s early compositions were written primarily for piano and voice. As well, he was a poet and the editor of a musical periodical, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Journal for Music).

Robert Schumann’s early compositions were written primarily for piano and voice. As well, he was a poet and the editor of a musical periodical, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Journal for Music).

At age eighteen Schumann began studying piano with Friedrich Wieck in Leipzig. Wieck’s daughter Clara was only nine years old at that time and already recognized as an amazing child prodigy at the piano. Over the years, Robert and Clara fell in love, but father Wieck disapproved of their relationship, doing everything he could to separate the two. Eventually, in 1840, when Clara became of age, an embarrassing court battle ensued and the two were granted the right to be married.

During their years of forced separation, Robert and Clara wrote passionate letters to each other, and Robert composed music with Clara in mind. Such was the case with Humoreske, Op. 20. As he wrote to her regarding this music, “I have been rhapsodizing about you and have thought of you with a love such as I have never experienced before. The whole week I have been sitting at the piano composing and writing, laughing and crying all at once.” He stated, regarding Humoreske, that the twelve sheets of writing were completed in one week.

Humoreske, Op. 20, is a lengthy, difficult, and episodic piece that overwhelms the playfulness implied by its title. Opening with a song-like melody, the following seven sections are each performed with their own tempo and style. These movements, played back to back, differ in style from sensitive, lyrical lines to brash, rhythmic verve. The bravura moments have been called some of the most difficult passages in all Schumann’s piano works. Clara, a pianist renowned throughout Europe, performed this piece in concert throughout her life.

Piano Sonata No. 19 in C minor, D. 958
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Franz Schubert is considered one of the leading musicians to bridge the last years of the Classical period and the beginning of the Romantic era. In his short thirty-one years, he created hundreds of works, including vocal works, symphonies, sacred and secular works, operas, and a large body of chamber and piano music. Although greatly valued by his circle of friends, much of his music was not widely appreciated during his lifetime and was recognized and published posthumously.

Of his twenty-two piano sonatas, the last three (C minor, Op. 958; A major, Op. 959; and B-flat major, Op. 960) are considered his finest. These were written during the last months of his life, between the spring and fall of 1828. They were not published until about ten years after his death.

Beethoven’s music had a profound effect on Schubert, and the Sonata in C minor shows his most “Beethovenian” side. The opening “Allegro” seems modeled after the theme from Beethoven’s 32 Variations in C minor, while the second movement, “Adagio,” brings elements of the “Adagio molto” second movement of Beethoven’s Sonata in C minor, Op. 10 No.1. The elegant, graceful “Menuetto & Trio” brings a lighthearted dance despite its occasional swings into the minor mode. “Allegro,” the last movement, can be compared to the last movement of Beethoven’s Sonata in E-flat, Op. 31 No. 3.

Despite the deterioration of his health in 1828, Schubert composed an extraordinary amount of music, including these last three sonatas. He played these three works at a party in his honor on September 27, 1828, having finished the B-flat Sonata only the previous day. He died less than two months later, on November 19, 1828.

Musical author George R. Marek wrote of Schubert’s final piano sonatas, “All three of the last sonatas are works in which meditation, charm, wistfulness, sadness and joy are housed in noble structures.”

Program Notes by
Joella Utley