Yefim Bronfman
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Copley Symphony Hall

750 B Street, Downtown San Diego

I'm getting a little weary of praising the San Diego Symphony to the heavens, but they're not giving much of a choice.

Last week's "most beautiful sound ever" has now been replaced by the brass chorale at the top of the Hansel and Gretel Prelude from Saturday night's concert.

Good lord, that concert was tight.

The San Diego Symphony is producing the tone quality of orchestras such as the Philharmonia and the Royal Philharmonic.

Added to the mix this last weekend was pianist Yefim Bronfman playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4.

I think I enjoy the fourth more than Beethoven's monumental Piano Concerto No. 5. There is something about the lyricism of the "Fourth" that works for me. The opening piano statement is profound in its simplicity. There are sections of this music that are darn close to sounding Mozartian and Mr. Bronfman played with perfect lyricism.

Since everything is going so well these days, I'm forced to become a nit picker. I thought the orchestra's tempo in the first movement was just a tad sluggish. Oh, the horror.

The eerie second movement was over too soon. Mr. Bronfman (and Beethoven) took us to a dimly lit netherworld full of piano shades and stern string sections.

In the pre-concert talk, Nuvi Mehta compared this music to a scene from Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice and I'm a believer. Orpheus famously went to the underworld to retrieve his dead wife, and Beethoven’s music certainly reflects that. Mr. Bronfman had me so mesmerized that the end of the section arrived like a slap in the face. I wanted them to play it again.

Mr. Bronfman played an encore for us just in case we weren't impressed enough with the Beethoven. The encore he played was Liszt’s Etude nach Paganini and it was an impressive transformation.

The delicate fingers that twinkled while playing Beethoven turned into the fierce talons of some prehistoric bird of prey. Bronfman clawed the flesh off the piano.

Mr. Bronfman also appears to have a good sense of humor. It is traditional for an audience to hold their applause until the end of a concerto but when there was applause after the first movement of the Beethoven, Mr. Bronfman jumped up and took a quick tongue-in-cheek bow before continuing with the rest of the performance.

I loved it.

The second half of the show was Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 and it was more of the same routine.

Tight, tight, tight.

There were sections where the strings played with so much energy and ferocity that a whirlwind started whipping through the auditorium.

Tupeés and pearls were flying everywhere. I swear to God I saw a monocle and top hat fly by, or at least that’s what it sounded like with all the strings sawing their instruments in half.

The year concludes with Holiday Pops concerts at Symphony Hall December 20th-22nd.

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