“A loving outlook on the life of a young person”

Yefim Bronfman on Brahms’ First Piano Concerto

(Photo: Dario Acosta)

Pianist Yefim Bronfman, a long-standing artistic friend of the Berliner Philharmoniker, dazzles audiences with his powerful, incisive playing and brilliant technique. As part of a Brahms programme, he will perform the composer’s First Piano Concerto under the baton of Daniel Barenboim in the Digital Concert Hall on 24 April at 19:00. In this interview, the artist reveals what fascinates him about this work and how his view of it has changed over the years.

Brahms’ First Piano Concerto is one of the showpieces and part of the core repertoire of every pianist.  When did you begin to study the piece and what were your first impressions?
I began to work on it when I was 15 years old. At the time it didn’t present any challenges. But as I grew older, I realised how complex and magnificent the work is, and it became more difficult for me.

Which movement or passage of the composition do you love the most?
Among the three movements, each is a world in itself. The first is tumultuous and dramatic and the last has overtones of Hungarian music and in a way a release of tension from the first. The central one is the heart of the work – very religious in feeling and reminiscent of Beethoven’s Missa solemnis.

Live broadcast in the Digital Concert Hall

Watch the concert with Daniel Barenboim, Yefim Bronfman and the Berliner Philharmoniker live on 24 April 2021, at 19:00 in the Digital Concert Hall.

Go to live broadcast

How has your view of the work changed over the years?
My view has changed many times and it keeps changing. I hope it will change again!  I begin to realise how brilliant Brahms already was in his early twenties – not only intellectually but with great feelings for love, and a genius ability to write one of the greatest concertos ever written.

Brahms composed the concerto very symphonically.  What is important for you in the interaction between the pianist and the orchestra?
Precisely, it’s a symphonic work. Brahms started writing it as a sonata for two pianos.  The same year, he heard Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which made a great impression on him. The idea of writing a symphonic work never left him. After he’d started writing a version of the concerto, he decided to write it as a symphonic work having listened to Beethoven’s Ninth – it’s also in the same key.  While it’s very much a symphonic work with a pianist in it, that’s not to say that the piano doesn’t have prominence.  But the orchestral part can’t be called accompaniment, it’s very much a part of the mutual and organic effort of both pianist and orchestra.

Is there an image or an idea that you associate with this concerto? And if so, which one?
For me, it has a feeling of nature and the outdoors.  At the same time it’s a very idealistic and loving outlook on the life of a young person. 

When you perform the work with the Berliner Philharmoniker, what are you most looking forward to?
Trying to match the sound and phrasing of this magnificent orchestra.


Berliner Philharmoniker
Daniel Barenboim
Yefim Bronfman

Johannes Brahms
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in D minor, op. 15

Yefim Bronfman piano

Johannes Brahms
Symphony No. 1 in C minor, op. 68

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