The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is a world renown ensemble based in Amsterdam and is made up of 120 players from over 20 countries. Critics have praised its unique sound, calling the string section ‘velvety’, the brass ‘golden’, the woodwinds ‘distinctly personal’ and the percussion section enjoys and ongoing international reputation. The orchestra has long been particularly admired for its performances of the music of Strauss, Mahler and Bruckner. The RCO’s principle Patron is Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands.
Yefim Bronfman was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and became an American citizen in 1989. When his family emigrated to Israel in 1973, and he began studying piano at Tel Aviv University with Arie Vardi. Two years later he made his international debut with the Montreal Symphony under Zubin Mehta. Bronfman continued his studies at the Juilliard School, the Curtis Institute, and the Marlboro Festival. His private teachers included Rudolf Firkusny, Leon Fleisher, and Rudolf Serkin. Yefim Bronfman is particularly admired for his performances of modern Russian repertory. Additionally, he has been nominated for 6 Grammy Awards, winning in 1997 with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic for their recording of the three Bartok Piano Concerti. His most recent CD release is Magnus Lindberg's Piano Concerto No. 2 commissioned for him and performed by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Alan Gilbert on the Da Capo label.
Ludwig van Beethoven began composing his Concerto in G major in 1805. He performed the work during a private concert in March of 1807 at the palace of his patron, Prince Joseph Lobkowitz and gave the public premiere of the piece at the Vienna Theater-an-der Wien on December 22, 1808. The G major concerto is one of the several major works Beethoven dedicated to his friend and patron the Archduke Rudolph. It was the last work that Beethoven composed for his own use. The public premiere was part of an infamously lengthy concert in which Beethoven gave his last appearance as soloist, heading the increasing deafness that finally made public appearances impossible. While both an ill-prepared overall performance and general discomfort in the unheated hall probably worked against all the music presented, the concerto's break with the traditional concerto format may have been the most persuasive negative factor for the audience. However, years later, a young Felix Mendelssohn rescued the G major Concerto from obscurity and established it in the repertoire when he performed it in Leipzig in 1836. A 26-year-old Robert Schumann, who was present, would later recall being so transfixed by the work that "I sat in my place without moving a muscle or even breathing."
Johannes Brahms composed his Second Symphony in the summer of 1877. Hans Richter conducted the premiere performance given by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, in Vienna, on December 30, 1877. Though his First Symphony had taken nearly two decades to finish, Brahms’ Second Symphony was created quickly, during his summer holiday in the resort town of Pörtschach, on Lake Wörth in southern Austria. “It is all rippling streams, blue sky, sunshine, and cool green shadows. How beautiful it must be at Portschach,” wrote the composers friend Theodore Billroth, after first reading the piece. Over time, the work has become to be considered, Brahms’ Pastoral Symphony, taking a cue from its sunny disposition.
The Second Symphony does have an overall formal structure, but the composer denies us the easy repetition of simple, sing-able tunes. The first movement opens quietly in the celli, followed a measure later by the horns. The Adagio second movement sounds like “musical prose,” and the third is a dance-like Ländler which turns into a Presto scherzo based on the same theme. The finale begins quietly with a recapitulation of the first theme followed by the second theme at differing dynamics. The dark mood and struggle of the First Symphony are set aside by the bright, cheerfulness of the second, yet there are moments of surprising darkness when lighter composition gives way to richly harmonised passages in the low brass.
Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator