Mu­sic fes­ti­val opens in Shang­hai with US pi­anist’s work

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By ZHANG KUN in Shang­hai zhangkun@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Pi­anist Ye­fim Bronf­man made his de­but in Shang­hai at the open­ing con­cert of the Mu­sic in the Sum­mer Air fes­ti­val with the New York Phil­har­monic orches­tra on Sun­day.

Since 2010, the out­door mu­sic fes­ti­val has been hosted each year by the Shang­hai Sym­phony Orches­tra, aim­ing to take clas­si­cal mu­sic to a wider au­di­ence.

As an in­flu­en­tial mu­si­cian, Bronf­man is known for his tech­nique and wide reper­toire, rang­ing from clas­si­cal Beethoven and Brahms pieces to mod­ern works by com­posers, such as Mag­nus Lind­berg and Esa-Pekka Salo­nen, says Gu Chao, a mu­sic critic in Shang­hai.

The Is­raeli-Amer­i­can played Brahms’ Pi­ano Con­certo No 2 with the New York Phil­har­monic un­der the ba­ton of Alan Gil­bert at the fes­ti­val’s open­ing on Sun­day.

“He went through the most challenging part with great ease,” says Gu.

Li Changy­ing, an­other mu­sic critic from the city, says Bronf­man’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion was “clear and full of in­tri­cacy, and in con­trast with his sturdy physique”.

Bronf­man was born in Tashkent, Uzbek­istan, in 1958, and moved to Is­rael with his fam­ily at age 15.

Dur­ing World War II, lots of out­stand­ing mu­si­cians went to Tashkent, the Uzbek cap­i­tal, and they stayed on af­ter the war had ended. As a re­sult, Tashkent had good mu­sic schools, Bronf­man told the me­dia in Shang­hai about the be­gin­ning of his mu­sic stud­ies.

It was in 1978 that Bronf­man first played with the New York Phil­har­monic, along­side Chi­nese-Amer­i­can cel­list Yo-Yo Ma. In the next year, he played with fa­mous con­duc­tor Zu­bin Me­hta for the orches­tra’s new sea­son open­ing.

Bronf­man is ac­tive in the in­ter­na­tional scene, play­ing con­certs, record­ings and col­lab­o­rat­ing with other in­stru­men­tal­ists and mod­ern com­posers. He won a Grammy in 1997.

“You have to re­mind your­self it is a priv­i­lege to be a mu­si­cian, and be an am­bas­sador of mu­sic,” Bronf­man says, “be­cause with­out mu­sic, we would be liv­ing in a jun­gle.”

He says he was happy to see a large num­ber of young peo­ple at the Shang­hai fes­ti­val. Clas­si­cal mu­sic can be a com­plex lan­guage. When he was 17, he didn’t un­der­stand “the lan­guage of Brahms” but kept prac­tic­ing the pieces.

“Some com­posers you can re­late to more eas­ily, like Tchaikovsky, Rach­mani­noff, Mozart and Schu­bert,” he says.

Even for the au­di­ence, the melody is of­ten the best way to un­der­stand the mu­sic, he says.

Bronf­man jokes that he was “very jeal­ous” of Ital­ian tenor An­drea Bo­celli, be­cause there were lots of fe­male mem­bers in the au­di­ence for his con­certs.

The pi­anist went on to com­pare ap­pre­ci­a­tion for mu­sic to wine tast­ing. It doesn’t come right away, he says, “maybe it is a ques­tion of grow­ing up and ma­tur­ing — have your ears evolve.”

Through the past decades, Bronf­man has met with many mu­si­cians from China, from Liu Shikun, to younger artists, such as Lang Lang and Yuja Wang.

“They were al­ready great mu­si­cians when they landed in the US,” he says.

“They must have (had) great teach­ers in China to teach them.”

He de­clined to give ad­vice to as­pir­ing mu­si­cians in the coun­try, al­though he did share his ex­pe­ri­ence col­lab­o­rat­ing with con­duc­tors uni­ver­sally.

“Don’t be po­lite,” says the pi­anist. “Al­ways speak your mind and ex­press your opin­ion, and the con­duc­tor has to do the same.”

That way one can get to the bot­tom of the mu­sic, he adds.

This year’s Mu­sic in the Sum­mer Air fes­ti­val will go on for two weeks, com­pris­ing 25 con­certs that will be held at the Shang­hai Con­cert Hall.

The high­lights in­clude a joint con­cert by the New York Phil­har­monic and the Jazz at Lin­coln Cen­ter Orches­tra with Wyn­ton Marsalis on Fri­day; Chris­tian Black­shaw play­ing the com­plete col­lec­tion of Mozart’s sonatas from Mon­day to July 13; and Song of Ev­er­last­ing Sor­row, fea­tur­ing Chi­nese bass singer Shen Yang on Sun­day.

You can visit misa.org.cn for more de­tails of the fes­ti­val.

PHOTOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Pi­anist Ye­fim Bronf­man (left) and con­duc­tor Alan Gil­bert at the open­ing con­cert of the Mu­sic in the Sum­mer Air fes­ti­val in Shang­hai. The New York Phil­har­monic plays un­der the ba­ton of Gil­bert.

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