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Bronfman Easily Tackles Tough Works


Russian-born American pianist Yefim Bronfman gave only his third solo performance ever in Los Angeles on Monday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and it was a stunner: One of the most difficult agendas one can imagine, performed with seriousness and ease and first-class musical projection, before an audience that seemed to appreciate the feat.

Both Brahms' monumental F-minor Sonata, Opus 5, and Mussorgsky's original piano version of "Pictures at an Exhibition" showed the low-keyed, resourceful virtuoso at the top of his game.

Between the two giants, the 39-year-old pianist inserted not a miniature or something amusing and coy but a new, if derivative, work--Rodion Shchedrin's Second Sonata (1997), in its United States premiere.

After illuminating in wondrous detail both the daring heroism and lyric heights in Brahms' largest and most forbidding solo-piano work, Bronfman reiterated what has become a specialty in his repertory, the Mussorgsky suite.

What makes his reading definitive are its colorfulness and its range; the contrasts do not pretend to be orchestral, yet they probe the many characteristics and moods of the separate movements in a most rewarding way. Among many other ear-opening moments: the mezzo-tints Bronfman brought to "Il vecchio castello."

The Shchedrin work tills old ground and articulates a modernism at least 50 years old. Nevertheless, for its clever display of idiomatic pianistic digitality, its Debussyan washes and its revival of old-fashioned Soviet-style motoric motifs, the 16-minute piece, written for Bronfman, has charms.

Encores: a Scarlatti sonata in C minor; the first movement from the piano suite from Stravinsky's "Petrushka," both played with the pianist's irresistible panache.

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