Pensive strings introduce the the Adagio which develops into a marvelous duet for piano and timpani. Here Mr. Bronfman and timpanist Marcus Rhoten created an incredible atmosphere: moody and a bit ominous. Suddenly things perk up without warning and we are in a scherzo-like realm with an agitato feeling and with the pianist finding unusual delicacies. Mr. Bronfman then commences a remarkable pianissimo trill that goes on and on over misterioso strings.

For the concerto's finale, Bartók gets almost jazzy - in a slightly darkish way - and we hear from the trumpets; a feeling of a kind of war dance evolves. Another piano/percussion duet crops up - this time it's Steinway vs bass drum - before the music turns unexpectedly dreamy. But the dream is short-lived as the trumpets re-awaken and the concerto ends brightly. Mr. Bronfman was well in his element throughout, his playing agile and multi-hued, with fine dynamic contrasts. The orchestra did their soloist proud.

By way of perfect contrast to his grand-scale playing of the Bartók, Mr. Bronfman chose for an encore Chopin's Étude in E Major, Op.10, No.3. The opening melody of this work, thought to have been Chopin's favorite among the études, was later the source of a vocal song arranged by the soprano Félia Litvinne and recorded famously by Litvinne's pupil, the tragic Germaine Lubin. This evening, Mr. Bronfman's poetic rendering of the full étude cast a thoughtful spell over the hall. This magical experience, like so many others in recent years, was sadly spoilt in its most poignant passage by the ringing of a cellphone. Yet Mr. Bronfman continued, unperturbed, and left me a beautiful memory to cherish.


Above: Bramwell Tovey