It was somewhat of a sensation when in October 2010 it was announced that the then just 35-year-old Yannick Nézet-Séguin was soon to be the next music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra – the successor to Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, Riccardo Muti, Wolfgang Sawallisch and Christoph Eschenbach. For his debut with the Philharmoniker in Berlin just a few weeks later, he conducted Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. At his side was Yefim Bronfman, an artist who is committed to the piano works of Prokofiev more than almost anyone else.
As the New York Times once wrote: “What makes Mr. Bronfman so successful in music of this sort is that he is the same kind of pianist as Prokofiev was a composer. In other words, he is a virtuoso, with chops that need fear no comparisons, yet his musicality purges that virtuosity of mere brilliance.” In this recording, Bronfman takes the same approach with the Second Piano Concerto: a work which Prokofiev started when he was still a student, but which already contains the full expressive scope of the composer.
Hector Berlioz is also – along with Prokofiev – proof positive that composers can be virtuosos too, not only performing artists. Using vast orchestral forces, he develops a wide range of scenarios in his Symphonie fantastique – from airy waltzes to garish grotesquerie. Just how right Yannick Nézet-Séguin is for this demanding score could be read in the review of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “Yannick Nézet-Séguin is blessed with […] a compelling physical intelligence. [Beneath] the theatrical hysteria of this piece with its abrupt changes of character and gesture, the conductor produces a large-scale unity of movement, with a dramatic pulse and an emotional prevailing mood.”