Yefim Bronfman: I keep playing for other pianists

Yefim Bronfman: I keep playing for other pianists


norman lebrecht

December 27, 2016

The Russian-Israeli US-based virtuoso, in a candid video interview with Zsolt Bognar, confesses to constant attacks of nerves, accompanied by the need for approbation by other pianists.

‘I get very nervous… before a concert it’s a struggle to go on stage…. you have many fears,’ he confesses. ‘But then (you find that) everybody is in the same boat.’

‘I always wanted to have advice from others. I played a lot for Barenboim. I played for Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia… I always have the necessity to learn more.’

‘It’s a fascinating life, but achievement is not something I am proud of.’


photo: Todd Rosenberg

from Philip Roth’s novel The Human Stain, pp. 209-210:

Then Bronfman appears. Bronfman the brontosaur! Mr. Fortissimo! Enter Bronfman to play Prokofiev at such a pace and with such bravado as to knock my morbidity clear out of the ring. He is conspicuously massive through the upper torso, a force of nature camouflaged in a sweatshirt, somebody who has strolled into the music shed out of a circus where he is the strongman and who takes on the piano as a ridiculous challenge to the gargantuan strength he revels in. Yefim Bronfman looks less like the person who is going to play the piano than like the guy who should be moving it. I had never before seen anybody go at a piano like this sturdy little barrel of an unshaven Russian Jew. When he’s finished, I thought, They’ll have to throw the thing out. He crushes it. He doesn’t let that piano conceal a thing. Whatever’s in there is going to come out, and come out with its hands in the air. And when it does, everything there out in the open, the last of the last pulsation, he himself gets up and goes, leaving behind him our redemption. With a jaunty wave, he is suddenly gone, and though he takes all his fire off with him like no less a force than Prometheus, our own lives now seem inextinguishable. Nobody is dying, NOBODY — not if Bronfman has anything to say about it!


  • Sue says:

    I was strangely unmoved by this pianist’s playing when I saw him twice at the Musikverein in 2011.

  • RW2013 says:

    His Prokofiev sonata cycle in Berlin last season was brilliant!

    • Marlena VanHelsing says:

      I love this man…this performer…musician..pianist….. and his whole demeanor.Smart, humble,intelligent and a great personality

  • Adam Stern says:

    I’ve heard him play several concertos in concert, and treasured these performances, but the one I remember most fondly was a chamber music evening in Los Angeles with Cio-Liang Lin and Lynn Harrell that ended with an overwhelmingly powerful performance of the Tchaikovsky Piano Trio. I can still see the three musicians walking offstage after their final bows with their arms around each others’ shoulders; they had achieved something very special in that performance, and I think they knew it.

  • Daniel F. says:

    He would do better were he “to play for” his former teachers Leon Fleisher, Rudolph Firkusny, and Rudolph Serkin. Perhaps there is too much trepidation in imagining their demands (including those of the latter two from the beyond). Seriously, it’s kind of odd that these great artist-teachers didn’t make the Bronfman “cut”.

  • Doug Grant says:

    I recall a wonderful Brahms 2 in Melbourne 2 years ago! A great pianist.

  • Steve says:

    I’m a Prokofiev nut and for me, it’s always been difficult deciding whose interpretation I preferred best – Richter or Bronfman. Many times, it’s the latter. I can’t wait to see him play one day.

  • Jorge Andrés Ossa González says:

    For me he is one of the best pianist that I have heard before, specially de Prokofiev piano sonatas. It is increible for me that he only play the 4th sonata in his record, because for is the best performance that I have heard.

  • above says:

    I loved Yefim’s concerts just waiting for him to destroy the piano but it survived. Come back Yefim we need you.

    Carole Weinstein

  • john humphreys says:

    A fine pianist for sure. He suffers from nerves? Join the club