“Mr. Bronfman seemed in his element for a concert with musicians from the Philharmonic.” — The New York Times

92Y and the New York Philharmonic celebrate a lesser-known side of Tchaikovsky a composer of chamber music as part of Beloved Friend–Tchaikovsky and His World: A Philharmonic Festival. Revered pianist Yefim Bronfman performs selections from The Seasons, one of Tchaikovsky’s picturesque solo piano works. He’s then joined by New York Philharmonic colleagues, led by new Concertmaster Frank Huang in his 92Y debut, for Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence and Piano Trio in A minor.

Yefim Bronfman, piano 
Musicians from the New York Philharmonic
     Frank Huang, violin
     Sheryl Staples, violin
     Cynthia Phelps, viola
     Rebecca Young, viola
     Carter Brey, cello
     Eileen Moon, cello

TCHAIKOVSKY: Selections from The Seasons, Op. 37a 
TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50
TCHAIKOVSKY: Souvenir de Florence, Sextet for Strings, Op. 70

 

Co-presented with New York Philharmonic as part of Beloved Friend — Tchaikovsky and His World: A Philharmonic Festival

 

This event is supported in memory of Harold W. and Ida L. Goldstein by the Estate of Sanford Goldstein.

► Yefim Bronfman plays Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons: January

Bloomberg.com interviews Yefim Bronfman, Aug 22, 2013

Explore the Music

(Click the names below to expand info.)

TCHAIKOVSKY: Selections from The Seasons, Op. 37a

PIOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY
Born in Votkinsk, Russia, May 7, 1840; died in St. Petersburg, November 6, 1893
Selections from The Seasons, Op. 37a
Composed in 1875-76; 12 minutes


Music lovers of a certain age will remember the center section of the American monthly periodical The Etude. Piano students all over the US would eagerly prop the magazine on the piano rack and play through the contributed scores for that month. The Etude was the most prominent of the American magazines and journals that once printed piano music for home consumption; its editors were simply following a custom that reached back almost to the beginning of music journals in 18th-century Europe. Short works and excerpts by famous, and not-so-famous, composers once appeared regularly in such periodicals.

In Russia, the French-language The Nouvellist was a monthly journal founded in 1840 and published by the St. Petersburg music entrepreneur Matvey Bernard and his son Nikolay. In addition to publishing music articles, cultural news, and performance reviews, the Bernards printed piano works specially composed for their readers’ enjoyment. In 1875 they approached Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky with a proposal to write, not one, but a series of twelve pieces.

Tchaikovsky accepted the commission, and beginning with the holiday waltz December: Christmas in 1875, submitted a character piece for each month until the set was complete, in November 1876. Bernard, the publisher, issued them with an accompanying poem illustrative of the title. For obvious reasons, this set of miniatures became known as The Seasons. Under that title, the work was published in one volume in 1876.

The principal strengths of Tchaikovsky’s composition — a simple charm, memorable lyricism and dancing rhythms — have appealed to a wide range of instrumentalists. Several composers have arranged The Seasons, entirely or in part, for other instruments, ranging from guitars to full symphony orchestra. The original piano version lends itself to a performance of excerpts, as in the present concert, for which Mr. Bronfman has selected a group representing the four seasons in four different moods.

© 2016, Sandra Hyslop

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TCHAIKOVSKY: Souvenir de Florence, Sextet for Strings, Op. 70

PIOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY
Souvenir de Florence, Sextet for Strings, Op. 70

Composed in 1890, revised in 1891-92; 34 minutes

Tchaikovsky’s reputation as a composer of chamber music rests largely upon a relatively short list of completed works. In addition to the two on this evening’s program — the elegiac Piano Trio in A minor (1881–1882) and the vivacious Sextet for Strings (1890–1892) — he composed three string quartets, all completed in the 1870s. Many fragments of chamber works survive, but it is clear that Tchaikovsky’s muse prompted him with greater urgency to the larger forms, such as orchestral compositions, opera and ballet.

The Sextet for Strings, subtitled Souvenir de Florence, resulted from a commission that Tchaikovsky received in 1886 from the St. Petersburg Chamber Music Society. He did not immediately respond, as he was much taken up with the composition of The Sleeping Beauty ballet, and then his opera Queen of Spades. He began composition on the Sextet for Strings in June 1887, and returned to it in 1890, while in Florence working on Queen of Spades.

Although Tchaikovsky himself chose the subtitle “Souvenir de Florence,” he denied any programmatic connection between the music and that city. His brother Modest did say that the first theme of the Andante was composed in Florence, and certainly the character of much of the work could be described as “Italianate,” if not Florentine. However, with its wealth of melodic material, sensuousness, and rhythmic energy, Tchaikovsky’s Sextet might reasonably have been subtitled Souvenir of Dijon, or Monaco or Barcelona.

Listeners familiar with Tchaikovsky’s orchestral composition Serenade for Strings will certainly recognize a kinship with the Sextet. The smaller ensemble allows the composer the option of doubling the voices for extra weight, while it also presents challenges: “One needs six independent but, at the same time, homogenous voices,” Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother. “This is frightfully difficult

In the end, the work had more than one “premiere,” as Tchaikovsky continued to revise it after its first private performance, on December 7, 1890, in St. Petersburg, and its first public performance several days later. The premiere of the final revised version took place in 1892, with the Hungarian violinist Leopold Auer sitting in the first violin chair. The ebullient and melodious Souvenir de Florence proved to be Tchaikovsky’s final composition for chamber ensemble.

© 2016, Sandra Hyslop

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TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50

PIOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY
Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50

Composed in 1881–1882; 47 minutes

Nikolai Rubinstein (1835–1881), the great pianist, pedagogue and director of the Moscow Conservatory, was the younger of two brothers who played prominent roles in the development of their country’s music culture. Although Tchaikovsky had studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory with the older brother, Anton, it was the younger brother, Nikolai, who became Tchaikovsky’s mentor. In spite of rough patches in their relationship, Tchaikovsky admired him greatly. When Tchaikovsky learned that Nikolai Rubinstein had suddenly died in Paris on March 3, 1881, he was grief-stricken.

In a letter to his brother Modest, written from Paris later that month, Tchaikovsky reported: “You will hear from [friends] all about the sorrowful days through which I have been living. Last night the body of poor Nikolai Grigorievich went to Moscow…Horror descends upon one at the thought that he is irreplaceable.”

Tchaikovsky soon decided to put his profound feelings into the service of a new composition. His patron Nadejda von Meck had already asked him for a piano trio, and it was this form that he chose with which to honor Nikolai Grigorievich. Beginning the work in December 1881, Tchaikovsky completed it on February 9, 1882, in time for a private performance in Moscow commemorating the first anniversary of Rubinstein’s death. The same trio of musicians — Sergei Taneyev, piano; N. Grimali, violin; and William Fitzhagen, cello — performed the official premiere on October 30, 1882.

Tchaikovsky dedicated the work “To the memory of a great artist.” No doubt to honor Nikolai Rubinstein’s great pianism, Tchaikovsky assigned that instrument an outsized role in the Piano Trio. Indeed, it makes piano concerto demands. In the first movement, a classic sonata-allegro form, Tchaikovsky immediately establishes the elegiac mood in a passionate A minor. The second movement, a theme and variations, moves to the key of A major. He pays tribute to Rubinstein’s origins and life by the inclusion of folk elements. Hints of a waltz, mazurka and even a music box refer to his mentor’s love of folk music. The eleven variations run the gamut of emotions and of musical styles. Continuing without pause after the eleventh variation, Tchaikovsky increases the tension in a final section, Variazione finale e coda. It is a twelfth variation that returns dramatically to the principal theme and minor mode of the first movement. Reluctant to let go, Tchaikovsky ends the Trio with a quiet dirge based upon that theme. The piano has the last, hushed word.

Photo: Nikolai (left) & Anton Rubinstein
© 2016, Sandra Hyslop

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Artist Bios

Yefim Bronfman

Internationally recognized as one of today's most acclaimed and admired pianists, Yefim Bronfman’s commanding technique, power and exceptional lyrical gifts are consistently acknowledged by the press and audiences alike.

Mr. Bronfman opened the 2016/17 season with the Israel Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta in October and participated in the Philharmonic’s 80th birthday celebrations last month. Last November, he joined the Staatskapelle Dresden and conductor Christian Thielemann to participate in the 30th anniversary celebrations of Suntory Hall. In the US he returns to the Los Angeles and New York philharmonics; the Cleveland and Philadelphia orchestras; and the Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, Houston and Dallas symphonies, among others. A cross-country series of recitals will culminate at Carnegie Hall on May 4, 2017.

In Europe Mr. Bronfman will tour extensively in recital and with orchestras in cities including Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Brussels and Leipzig. Continuing his long-standing partnership with Pinchas Zukerman, the duo will tour Europe in March, appearing in Copenhagen, Milan, Naples, Barcelona, Berlin and St. Petersburg.

Widely praised for his solo, chamber and orchestral recordings, Mr. Bronfman was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009 for his Deutsche Grammophon recording of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s piano concerto with Salonen conducting, and in 1997 he won a Grammy Award, again with Salonen, for his recording of the three Bartók Piano Concerti and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. His most recent CD releases include the 2014 Grammy-nominated Magnus Lindberg's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the New York Philharmonic on the Da Capo label; Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.1 with the Bayerischer Rundfunk; a recital disc, Perspectives; and recordings of all the Beethoven piano concerti as well as the Triple Concerto together with violinist Gil Shaham, cellist Truls Mørk, and the Tönhalle Orchestra Zürich for Arte Nova/BMG. His DVDs include both Brahms Concerti with The Cleveland Orchestra, from 2015.

Born in Tashkent in the Soviet Union, Yefim Bronfman immigrated to Israel with his family in 1973. In the United States, he studied at The Juilliard School, Marlboro School of Music, and the Curtis Institute of Music. He is a 2015 recipient of an honorary doctorate from the Manhattan School of Music. Yefim Bronfman became an American citizen in July 1989. His website is yefimbronfman.com.


Photo: Dario Acosta

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Frank Huang, violin

Frank Huang joined the New York Philharmonic as Concertmaster, The Charles E. Culpeper Chair, in September 2015, and he made his solo debut in Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons in June 2016. He previously served as concertmaster of the Houston Symphony, he was first violinist of the Ying Quartet, and he won the 2003 Walter W. Naumburg Foundation’s Violin Competition and the 2000 Hannover International Violin Competition. Solo engagements have included The Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony and NDR Radio Philharmonic orchestras. Recent highlights include debuts at Wigmore Hall, Salle Cortot and Kennedy Center, and the world premiere of Donald Martino’s Sonata for Solo Violin at Alice Tully Hall. He has performed at the Marlboro, Ravinia, Seattle Chamber and Caramoor festivals, and he has toured with Musicians from Marlboro. Mr. Huang earned a bachelor of music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, attended The Juilliard School and is a Music Academy of the West alumnus. He serves on the faculties of The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and the University of Houston.

Photo: Chris Lee

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Sheryl Staples, violin

Principal Associate Concertmaster Sheryl Staples, The Elizabeth G. Beinecke Chair, joined the New York Philharmonic in September 1998. She has been featured in more than 30 solo performances with the Philharmonic in concertos by Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Haydn, Bach and Vivaldi. In the 2014/15 season, she performed Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante with Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps, led by Jaap van Zweden, in November, and led by Alan Gilbert in July. Previously, she was associate concertmaster of The Cleveland Orchestra and concertmaster of the Pacific Symphony and Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra. She has appeared as soloist with more than 45 orchestras, including The Cleveland Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic. Ms. Staples has participated in the La Jolla, Boston, Salt Bay, Santa Fe, Mainly Mozart and Aspen chamber music festivals, and she was a member of The Cleveland Orchestra Piano Trio. Ms. Staples is on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, Juilliard Pre-College Division, and The Juilliard School. She performs on the “Kartman” Guarnerius del Gesù, ca. 1728.

Photo: Chris Lee

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Cynthia Phelps, viola

Cynthia Phelps is the New York Philharmonic’s Principal Viola, The Mr. and Mrs. Frederick P. Rose Chair. Her solo appearances with the Orchestra have included the New York premiere – Philharmonic co-commission of Julia Adolphe’s Unearth, Release, in 2016; Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante in 2010 and 2014; and Sofia Gubaidulina’s Two Paths in 1999 and 2011, which the Orchestra commissioned for her and Associate Principal Viola Rebecca Young. Her solo engagements have included the Minnesota Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Orquesta Sinfónica de Bilbao and Hong Kong Philharmonic. Ms. Phelps performs with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Jupiter Chamber Players, and the Santa Fe, La Jolla, Seattle, Chamber Music Northwest and Bridgehampton festivals. She has appeared with the Guarneri, Tokyo, Orion, American, Brentano and Prague quartets and the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, and she is a founding member of the chamber group Les Amies. Winner of the Pro Musicis International Award, Ms. Phelps’s recording Air was nominated for a Grammy Award. She has performed as soloist on Live From Lincoln Center, American Public Media’s Saint Paul Sunday Morning and Radio France.

Photo: Christian Steiner

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Rebecca Young, viola

Violist Rebecca Young joined the New York Philharmonic in 1986 as its youngest member, and in 1991 she was named the Orchestra’s Associate Principal Viola, The Joan and Joel Smilow Chair. After serving as principal viola of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1992/93, she resumed her Philharmonic Associate Principal position in 1994. An avid chamber musician, she has performed with groups such as the Boston Chamber Music Society, Boston Symphony Chamber Players, and The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and has she recorded Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet with Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, Pamela Frank and Edgar Meyer (on Sony Classical). Her Philharmonic solo performances include the 1999 world premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Two Paths, commissioned by the Philharmonic and underwritten by then-Music Director Kurt Masur’s wife, Tomoko, for Ms. Young and Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps. The two reprised the work with the Philharmonic on several of the Orchestra’s tours and in New York, most recently in April 2011. She is a graduate of The Juilliard School and host of the Philharmonic’s popular Very Young People’s Concerts.

Photo: Susan Johann

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Carter Brey, cello

Carter Brey was appointed New York Philharmonic Principal Cello, The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Chair, in 1996. He has since appeared as soloist each season, most recently performing Schumann’s Cello Concerto on the California 2016 tour; he was also featured in The Bach Variations: A Philharmonic Festival, performing all six Bach cello suites. His honors include the Rostropovich International Cello Competition, Gregor Piatigorsky Memorial Prize, Avery Fisher Career Grant and Young Concert Artists’ Michaels Award; he was the first musician to win the Arts Council of America’s Performing Arts Prize. Mr. Brey has appeared as soloist with virtually all of the major American orchestras. He has collaborated regularly with the Tokyo and Emerson String Quartets and appeared at the Spoleto, Santa Fe and La Jolla chamber music festivals. His most recent recording features Chopin’s complete works for cello and piano with pianist Garrick Ohlsson. Mr. Brey studied at the Peabody Institute and Yale University, where he was a Wardwell Fellow and Houpt Scholar. His cello is a rare J.B. Guadagnini made in Milan in 1754.

Photo: Christian Steiner

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Eileen Moon, cello

Eileen Moon joined the New York Philharmonic in 1998, and in 2007 she was named Associate Principal Cello, The Paul and Diane Guenther Chair. Born and raised in Los Altos, California, she studied with Irene Sharp in the Pre-College Division of the San Francisco Conservatory. As a member of the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra, Ms. Moon toured Europe and the West Coast, often as a featured soloist. She earned her bachelor of music degree at The Juilliard School, then moved to Vienna to study with Valentin Erben of the Alban Berg Quartet. She has been a top prize winner in numerous competitions, including YoungArts (Florida) in 1987, Irving Klein (California) in 1988, Geneva International Competition (Switzerland) in 1991, and Tchaikovsky International Competition (Moscow) in 1994. She has performed in prestigious festivals and is the founder of the Warwick Music Series in Warwick, New York. Ms. Moon’s greatest passions are music presentation, cooking, running and animal advocacy. She co-founded Friends of Warwick Valley Humane Society and aims to open a sanctuary for injured, abandoned and “retired” animals and wildlife.

Photo: Chris Lee

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