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Wineke review: Beethoven in March

Published On: Mar 08 2014 04:54:17 PM CST   Updated On: Mar 08 2014 05:21:38 PM CST
Ludwig van Beethoven W.J. Mahler painting

Public domain

MADISON, Wis. -

Close your eyes for just a second and conjure up a mental image of a concert pianist.

Yefim Bronfman probably isn’t it.

Bronfman, 55, is middle-aged, portly, doesn’t have Liberace hair and really isn’t a showman.

He crosses the stage of the Overture Center to participate in the March all Beethoven concert of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and sits down on a cushioned piano bench. Then magic starts to happen.

It’s not just that Bronfman is a good pianist. MSO music director John DeMain has been recruiting artists to Madison for 20 years. We just assume the guest artist is going to be good.

But when Bronfman lets his hands race across the keyboard, it’s something else. If you were to close your eyes again, you could imagine two or three pianists were hitting all those notes and racing through all those ranges.

The program included Bronfman playing Beethoven’s “Concerto Number 2 in B-flat Major for Piano and Orchestra” and his “Concerto Number 5 in B-flat Major for Piano and Orchestra,” better known to most of us as the “Emperor” concerto.

All told, those aforementioned fingers were flying for more than an hour, bringing the audience to its feet once and, then, again as Bronfman offered an encore.

Bronfman played here previously in 2003 and in 2008. He’s an audience favorite and it is good to see him back.

Also on the weekend program are Beethoven’s “Symphony Number One in C-major” and his “Overture to the Creatures of Prometheus.”

The concert was developed long before the season started last fall, but it turned out to be truly appropriate for this year.

Beethoven doesn’t evoke images of spring, of lithe fairies dancing through the warm meadows.

It’s too late for that kind of image this year. Beethoven’s music is stirring, powerful, angry. You can take Beethoven and stick his music right into winter’s eye and feel good about it.

What else can I say? It’s Beethoven and Bronfman. They’re a good combination. Go hear them.

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