I grew up listening to Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, otherwise known as the Emperor Concerto, every Saturday afternoon. With its lyrical opening line, fast turns, and harmonic vivacity, the last movement of his Piano Concerto No. 4 has always struck me as a prelude to the majestic following concerto—beautiful, but not up to the heavenly standards Beethoven reached with Concerto No. 5. But Yefim Bronfman, the great Soviet-born Israeli-American pianist, shows why Concerto No. 4 holds its own against the mighty Emperor.
This Easter weekend, Houston Symphony presents a three-concert series with Smetana’s overture to The Bartered Bride and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 in G major, Opus 88 alongside Bronfman at the piano for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 (and, if you’re lucky as I was on Thursday, Bronfman will grace the audience with a stunning encore). It is also Music Director Designate Andrés Orozco-Estrada’s final appearance with Houston Symphony until next season’s opening weekend.
Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducts with energy, and he’s not afraid to move as though the music were actually dancing through his lithe fingers and across his body. Any concert of Smetana, Beethoven, and Dvořák reliably makes for a pleasant night of quality classical music. Under Orozco-Estrada’s baton, this trio is delightful and surprisingly invigorating.
Bronfman plays Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 tonight, April 18, and tomorrow, April 19. Visit Houston Symphony’s website for tickets and more info.