Elena Firsova’s new concerto travels internationally with piano soloist Yefim Bronfman over coming seasons, visiting Amsterdam, Philadelphia, Berlin, Gothenburg and Liverpool.
Elena Firsova is enjoying a particularly active concert season, with a series of new commissions and premieres, her Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra residency and, as a finale, the world premiere of her new Piano Concerto for Yefim Bronfman in Amsterdam. This latest score by the Russian-born, UK-resident composer takes place at the Concertgebouw on 16 June with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Jakub Hruša. Bronfman is currently artist in residence with the Dutch orchestra and travels internationally with the new concerto over coming seasons with further national premieres in Philadelphia (Feb 2023), Berlin (Apr 2023), Gothenburg and Liverpool (2024).
Firsova has created a number of works for piano and chamber orchestra in the past, including two chamber concertos featuring keyboard soloist, but her large-scale concertos have hitherto focused on string instruments, so this is her first combining piano with full orchestra. The new work is commissioned by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Gothenburg Symphony and the Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin
The composer links her new Piano Concerto to her Double Concerto for violin and cello of 2015, as both works are highly personal and explore reflections on “the mystery and meaning of death. The introduction and both movements of the Double Concerto were based on a motif from the last movement of Beethoven's string quartet op. 135. I mention this because my Piano Concerto is in a way a twin of my Double Concerto. The material of all three movements is based on one and the same motif. I did it completely unconsciously at the beginning, not realizing it until I had finished the first movement, and was amazed at how different the music was from the Double Concerto! I would just say that in the Piano Concerto I focused more on life's problems and questions. At the end, however, the clock inevitably appears as a reminder that everything has an end. As in the Double Concerto, the last movement of the Piano Concerto is the most important and longest part of the music.”
The Israeli-American virtuoso pianist Yefim Bronfman was born in Tashkent in the Soviet Union, now Uzbekistan, and emigrated with his family to Israel in 1973. He studied at Tel Aviv University, The Juilliard School, Marlboro School of Music, and the Curtis Institute of Music, under Rudolf Firkusny, Leon Fleisher, and Rudolf Serkin. He is particularly acclaimed for performances of music by Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Bartók and Prokofieff and has premiered contemporary works including Magnus Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No.2.
Recent new works by Firsova premiered under her RSO Berlin residency include Night in Appen, an orchestral reflection on nocturnal disturbances and dreams, premiered under the baton of Vladimir Jurowski, and Ornaments of Joy for choir and orchestra, composed to a poem by her late husband and fellow composer Dmitri Smirnov following his death during the COVID pandemic. Firsova’s Viola Concerto received a belated concert premiere in Berlin in April with Nils Mönkemeyer as soloist.
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Photos by Dmitri Smirnov and Dario Acosta
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