The Palm Beach Symphony performed at the Kravis Center on Monday in a resplendent concert with the “3rd Piano Concerto in D Minor, Op. 30 ”, the infamous Shostakovich“ Symphony no. 5, op. 47 ”, also in D minor, and a lesser-known piece,“ Kikimora, op. 63. “It was an evening of Russian romanticism.
“Kikimora” by Anatoly Liadov (Lyadov) is a beautiful work rarely heard in concert but it was perfect for a brilliant start to the evening. The strings were excellent, with violins split into two sections on the far right and left of Kravis’ main stage. The Liadov offered a feast of timbres and instrumental articulations – a showcase for strings, woodwinds and percussion with a piccolo ending.
The expected “Rach # 3” was performed by pianist Yefim Bronfman. He took the stage and got down to it right away with the familiar notes of the main theme ringing clearly.
The Palm Beach Symphony, conducted by Gerard Schwarz, was perfectly balanced in a robust concerto known for its difficulties. Many consider Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “3rd Piano Concerto” to be one of the most pianistically difficult pieces in Western canon.
Watching Bronfman play, we immediately noticed his relationship to the concerto and his instrument: a battle of wills, and an intense depth of emotion. This concerto is a mental challenge where the technical ability to perform it can devastate the pianist, but Rachmaninoff plants superb lyrical moments that act as a lifeline, often with strings, which bring the pianist back to the heart of romanticism.
After a thunderous end to the “Allegro ma non tanto” movement, Bronfman shredded the piano in “The Intermezzo (Adagio)”, pounding the keys while working the inner demons on the grand piano. The solo sections of the second movement were played with intentional fire – bossy and robust, while being caught in the windy fury of Rachmaninoff’s wildly scalar passages.
Again, it took the luscious strings to smooth the edges. The finale was at a steady tempo and allowed the audience to hear nuances, including that damn flute descent that always seems to come out galloping from the piano. Here it was perfectly executed. Bronfman conquered “Rach # 3”, not just survived it, as he physically leveraged his massive frame through shattering chords for a passionate finish. The audience responded with at least five returns on stage for a standing ovation and a solo encore.
After the intermission, the Palm Beach Symphony returned with a performance of Dmitry Shostakovich’s Symphony No.5, Op. 47. “Harpist Kay Kemper immediately stood out with a beautiful and confident approach to her instrument. There were beautiful moments for the flute and clarinet throughout. Despite the challenges of bringing this ensemble together at a another pandemic peak, the audience was treated to an extraordinary performance.
The Palm Beach Symphony is about to deliver another great season of great works.