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Bronfman, Spano team up with New World Symphony for electrifying night at the Arsht Center

01.14.18
Yefim Bronfman
South Florida Classical Review

Saturday evening brought a display of world-class performances at the Knight Concert Hall of the Adrianne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts by pianist Yefim Bronfman and the New World Symphony conducted by Robert Spano.

The first orchestral notes of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor outline the motif that is to persist throughout the first movement. Under Spano's direction the musicians executed the lengthy introduction with absolute precision of articulation and consistent phrasing, highlighting elegantly the timbre contrasts between strings and woodwinds.

Bronfman's entrance was commanding, yet not overpowering. His approach lent itself to an overarching thoughtful interpretation; one that did not needlessly dwell on every harmonic change, but expressed the varying characters with a purity of tone and simplicity of expression. The development section of the Allegro con brio showcased Bronfman's outstanding chamber musicianship as he gracefully floated the conversational exchanges between the piano and the orchestra. The pianist's pearly trills were immediately contrasted with his thunderous arpeggios, leading to the statement of the second theme in the cadenza, which was perhaps one of the most beautiful moments of the evening.

The Largo's polar opposite key of E major radiated warmth from the first chords of the piano. Bronfman projected a sense of wonderment in the soft dynamics and the luminous, nearly childlike melodic play between the flute and bassoon further enhanced this quality.

The Rondo finale, an outburst of energy and folk-like lightheartedness, brought out the seamless transitions of sections as well as Bronfman's technical facility. Under Spano's direction, the orchestra set up the fugato section with a steady pulse and focused tone, driving the momentum all the way to the coda. The enthusiastic audience ovations were rewarded with an encore by Brofnman, a stunningly played rendering of Chopin's E major Etude (Op. 10, no. 3).

Every listener expects a powerful experience when Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 is on the program, and Spano and the New World players did not disappoint Saturday night.

Much like Beethoven's motivic persistence, Shostakovich introduces three central gestures and obsessively builds on them. Spano's firm, yet guiding hand led the orchestra throughout the journey of this monumental work.

What starts as an unassuming figuration under a sweet melody, is later transformed into a menacing motif that ramps up to become a frightful call. Every section of the New World Symphony lived up to the technical demands and expressive challenges of this work. The strings sustained the melodic tension and suspense, the brass resounded mightily, and the woodwinds provided warmth of tone, and the percussion aided the galloping of momentum impeccably. Even amid the dense sonorities, Spano was able to heighten the textures of each new element with great clarity.

The Scherzo, a playful movement, was projected with accurate attacks and good sense of phrasing. The division of the strings and their intense vibrato created a rich tapestry of sound in the Largo movement. Although the Fifth Symphony was Shostakovich's "redemption" in the eyes of the Soviet system, this movement, in intimate whispers and loud eruptions, is imbued with a sense of oppression. 

Read the rest of the review here