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Great Pianists-in-Residence

Maazel, Bronfman, Brahms, and Sibelius

Recorded January 16, 2013

Mr. Maazel made his final appearances with the New York Philharmonic in back-to-back weeks in January, 2013. The first of these featured him leading Yefim Bronfman in a performance of the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Johannes Brahms. Mr. Bronfman discusses the challenges of the work as well as what Mr. Maazel brings to the music. The second half of the concert features the Symphony No. 2 by Jean Sibelius. Mr. Maazel was well-known for interpretations of the music of Sibelius and he recorded two complete cycles during his lifetime—this after rejecting the composer’s music for much of his youth. Listen to the subtle changes in pacing and phrasing as compared to his performance recorded in 2009, on broadcast #10-06.

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Conductor

Lorin Maazel by Andrew Garn

Lorin Maazel served as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic from 2002 to 2009. In the 2010–11 season he completed his fifth and final year as the inaugural music director of the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia opera house in Valencia, Spain, and at the start of the 2012–13 season he became music director of the Munich Philharmonic. Mr. Maazel was also the founder and artistic director of the Castleton Festival, based on his farm property in Virginia, which was launched to great acclaim in 2009. The festival expanded its activities nationally and internationally starting in 2011.

Mr. Maazel was also a composer, with a wide-ranging catalogue of works written primarily over the last dozen years. His first opera, 1984, based on George Orwell's literary masterpiece, had its world premiere at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in May 2005, and was revived at Milan's Teatro alla Scala in May 2008. A Decca DVD of the original London production was released in May 2008.

A second-generation American born in Paris, France, Lorin Maazel began violin lessons at age five, and conducting lessons at age seven. He studied with Vladimir Bakaleinikoff, and appeared publicly for the first time at age eight. Between ages nine and fifteen he conducted most of the major American orchestras, including the NBC Symphony at the invitation of Arturo Toscanini. In the course of his decades-long career Mr. Maazel conducted more than 150 orchestras in no fewer than 5,000 opera and concert performances. He made more than 300 recordings, including symphonic cycles of complete orchestral works by Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, Mahler, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Richard Strauss, winning 10 Grands Prix du Disques.

Lorin Maazel was music director of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (1993–2002); music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony (1988–96); general manager and chief conductor of the Vienna Staatsoper (1982–84, the first American to hold that position); music director of The Cleveland Orchestra (1972–82); and artistic director and chief conductor of the Deutsche Oper Berlin (1965–71). His close association with the Vienna Philharmonic included 11 internationally televised New Year's Concerts from Vienna.

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Piano

Yefim Bronfman by Dario Acosta

Pianist Yefim Bronfman works regularly with conductors Daniel Barenboim, Herbert Blomstedt, Semyon Bychkov, Riccardo Chailly, Christoph von Dohnányi, Gustavo Dudamel, Charles Dutoit, Daniele Gatti, Valery Gergiev, Alan Gilbert, Mariss Jansons, Vladimir Jurowski, James Levine, Riccardo Muti, Andris Nelsons, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Franz Welser-Möst, and David Zinman. Acknowledging a relationship of more than 30 years, Mr. Bronfman opened the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2016–17 season with Zubin Mehta in October, and participated in that orchestra’s 80th birthday celebrations in December.

Mr. Bronfman returns to the New York Philharmonic (where he served as the 2013–14 season Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence), Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras, and the Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, Houston, and Dallas symphony orchestras, among many others. A cross-country series of recitals will culminate in the spring with a program at Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium.

In Europe he tours extensively in recital and with orchestras in Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Brussels, and Leipzig. Continuing his long-standing partnership with Pinchas Zukerman, the duo will appear in Copenhagen, Milan, Naples, Barcelona, Berlin, and St. Petersburg in March.

Mr. Bronfman’s chamber music partners have also included Martha Argerich, Magdalena Kožená, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Emmanuel Pahud, and many others. Mr. Bronfman was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize in 1991, and the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in piano performance from Northwestern University in 2010. He has been nominated for three Grammy Awards, one of which he won for his recording of the three Bartók Piano Concertos with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, led by Esa-Pekka Salonen. He was nominated for a 2013 Grammy for the recording of Magnus Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, commissioned for him by the Orchestra.

Born in Tashkent in the Soviet Union in 1958, Yefim Bronfman immigrated to Israel with his family in 1973. 

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Piano Concerto No. 1

JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833–97)
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1854–58)

This First Piano Concerto is a remarkable work from a young man who started out on his musical career as a piano player in the dives and taverns of Hamburg’s harbor. Its evolution was complex and its gestation long. Brahms revised it even after it was premiered in 1859. It is symphonic in scope, lasting around 45 minutes. The rolling thunder of the timpani marks the concerto’s long and stormy orchestral introduction. The peaceful Adagio comes as blessed relief (“I am also painting a lovely portrait of you; it is to be the Adagio,” the composer wrote to Clara Schumann, his ardent supporter, advisor, and possibly more). The Rondo finale, with its two huge cadenzas, brings this powerful and massively difficult work to a rousing conclusion. In his book on Brahms, Burnett James wrote: “The D-minor Concerto … marks the end of Brahms’s youthful romantic period. Never again was he to let himself go with such uninhibited passion; never again to wear his heart so unashamedly on his sleeve.”

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Symphony No. 2

JEAN SIBELIUS (1865–1957)
Symphony No. 2 (1902)

Although the composer strenuously denied it, commentators have remarked on the political associations of Sibelius’s Second Symphony, including Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä, who said: “The second symphony is connected with our nation’s fight for independence, but it is also about the struggle, crisis, and turning-points in the life of an individual. This is what makes it so touching.” Of particular note is the finale, which builds up tremendous tension until the final brass coda, which Sibelius marked a triumphant fff. The symphony was received with great acclaim by his countrymen, who were hungry for music by their national hero — it was the tonic the Finns needed to salve their national wounds (it should be remembered that when Sibelius composed this symphony, Finland was still under the yoke of the Tsar). And whether the composer had a “program” in mind or not, there is no denying that the Second is by far the most popular of his symphonies, and its style is characteristic Sibelius…full of those marvelous dark-hued sonorities, expansive brass chorales, and passionate expressiveness. Jean Sibelius himself led the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in the 1902 premiere, which was so successful that three more performances had to be scheduled.

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