Muti, Bronfman and the Chicago–a Winning Combination at Carnegie Hall

muti posterWhen a giant like Riccardo Muti mounts the podium in front of the Chicago Symphony in what is arguably the best hall in the world, you enjoy the glow and wonder why somehow New York couldn’t have lured him here–money? excitement? better winters?  muti and the chicago ( He conducted a sumptuous performance of Schumann’s joyous “Rhenish” Symphony, reminding me why I like this Schumann Symphony the best (well, maybe the “Spring”). The famous brass blew flawlessly and the conductor, while energetic, did not, as our orchestration teacher once accused Leonard Bernstein of doing, give a better performance than the orchestra.

The first part of the program featured Yefim Bronfman in the Brahms Second Piano Concerto, one of my favorites. This great bear of a man clouted the instrument in the stormy moments and coursed over the keys delicately in the lyrical ones. I love his playing and although knowledgeable friends Geoffrey and Harry deemed his performance “conservative” and Rory said “burnished” rather than brilliant, I was thrilled.

?( and Muti worked together seamlessly, never departing from a clearly defined image of the piece they shared. The ferocious second movement is a frightful precipice for many pianists, including the great Van Cliburn who had to restart it at a concert I attended long long ago. In that case, he and the conductor may not have been in sync–the worst thing for any soloist. Bronfman took the movement in stride though not at too fast a clip. Chicago’s First Cellist played the solo opening of the third movement magnificently and Bronfman crossed the stage during the bows to acknowledge him, joined by the appreciative audience.

In the Human Stain by Philip Roth, the narrator attends a rehearsal at Tanglewood and Wikipedia quotes this section:

“Then Bronfman appears. Bronfman the brontosaur! Mr. Fortissimo. Enter Bronfman to play Prokofiev at such a pace and with such bravado as to knock my morbidity clear out of the ring. He is conspicuously massive through the upper torso, a force of nature camouflaged in a sweatshirt, somebody who has strolled into the Music Shed out of a circus where is the strongman and who takes on the piano as a ridiculous challenge to the gargantuan strength he revels in. Yefim Bronfman looks less like the person who is going to play the piano than like the guy who should be moving it.”

Our $39 seats in the second row of the Second Tier were perfect for hearing and almost perfect, with a little neck craning, for seeing. No overhang and very close to the stage. Go and see Carnegie’s museum on the second floor, complete with posters and videos of famous concerts.

muti second floor loungeSee the entire room transfixed at Vladimir Horowitz’ 1968 performance. Why oh why didn’t I wait on line for those tickets?–one of my true musical regrets.muti--people watching horowitzYou can while away quite a nice time before the concert or at intermission viewing and identifying all the things you went to or, sadly, missed.muti second floor lounge 3A Soviet-born, Israeli-American 58-year old, Bronfman is a favorite with New Yorkers and after ending the 2014 year as artist-in-residence at Lincoln Center, returns to Carnegie Hall for a chamber music concert on April 14 with Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin) and Lynn Harrell (cellist) both at the top of their game. I think I might go.

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