VAIL — Friday’s afternoon rain clouds parted right in tempo with the opening night of the New York Philharmonic, lending to a crisp and clear evening at Gerald R. Amphitheater in Vail for Yefim Bronfman’s riveting rendition of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3.
Carl Nielson’s overture to the opera “Maskarade” opened the show in the hands of conductor Alan Gilbert. The bright theme welcomed a full audience, with hardly a seat to be found amid the covered seats and the open-air lawn.
Violins initiated an answer to the overture’s intro with a folk-dance melody, moving the theme into side-by-side sound interplay between carnival brass and pleasing strings.
Opening night was originally set to feature the renowned violinist Midori Goto, who goes simply by Midori; the same musician who just over 30 years ago originally debuted with the New York Philharmonic at age 11.
Midori was to play the Violin Concerto in D Major, by Tchaikovsky. According to a freshly printed show program, Bronfman and his Beethoven piano concerto replaced Midori due to complications with her pregnancy.
Concert-goer Monika Perry said she was aware of the program change, but that the show was perfect anyway.
“I would have enjoyed Tchaikovsky, but Beethoven was just as beautiful,” she said.
A Sweeping Entry
The concerto opened with vigor, with the orchestra’s streams of staccato sounds keeping Bronfman at attention. But there was no mistaking his refined and fluid key strokes in the moment of the piano’s sweeping entry.
Rob Lebuhn said he and his wife, Elaine, saw Bronfman at the Aspen Music Festival last weekend, and as loyal fans, they said have seen him play live a several dozen times.
“He is an unbelievable musician,” Lebuhn said. “He can play all five of the Beethoven concertos without a note in front of him — it’s remarkable.”
The audience seemed to agree, as the New York Philharmonic and Bronfman brought a full house to their feet before intermission.
‘Best in the World’
The orchestra’s sounds continued to move with the consistency and flow of the clouds in the July evening sky, following the midway break with Edvard Grieg’s selections from “Peer Gynt,” a five-act play by Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen. And to close the show, a finale of Les Preludes by Franz Liszt, which Lebuhn referred to as “marvelous.”
“I think you are fortunate to have Bronfman here in Vail, as you are all of these orchestras — they are the best in the world,” Lebuhn said.