Performance Sunday, May 17, 2015 | 3 PM

The MET Orchestra

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1, one of his first major works for orchestra, is among the grandest concertos. Its stormy opening movement and energetic Rondo finale frame a tender Adagio that Brahms said was a “gentle portrait” of Clara Schumann. Like much of Brahms’s music, it adheres to the models of classical form. But Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique is at the other end of the spectrum. Cast in five movements, each one is an episode in a tale of obsession, madness, and murder that culminates in a terrifying finale that depicts a witches’ sabbath.


  • The MET Orchestra
    James Levine, Music Director and Conductor
  • Yefim Bronfman, Piano


  • BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1
  • BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two and one-half hours, including one 20-minute intermission.


  • The MET Orchestra

    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra is regarded as one of the world's finest orchestras. From the time of the company's inception in 1883, the ensemble has worked with leading conductors in both opera and concert performances and has developed into an orchestra of enormous technical polish and style. The MET Orchestra (as the ensemble is referred to when appearing in concert outside the opera house) maintains a demanding schedule of performances and rehearsals during its 33-week New York season, when the company performs as many as seven times a week in repertory that this season encompasses 26 operas.

    In addition to its opera schedule, the orchestra has a distinguished history of concert performances. Toscanini made his American debut as a symphonic conductor with the Met Orchestra in 1913, and the impressive list of instrumental soloists who appeared with the orchestra includes Leopold Godowsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Arthur Rubinstein, Pablo Casals, Josef Hofmann, Ferruccio Busoni, Jascha Heifetz, Moritz Rosenthal, and Fritz Kreisler. Since the orchestra resumed symphonic concerts in 1991, instrumental soloists have included Itzhak Perlman, Maxim Vengerov, Alfred Brendel, and Evgeny Kissin, and the group has performed six world premieres: John Harbison's Closer to My Own Life, Milton Babbitt's Piano Concerto No. 2 (1998), William Bolcom's Symphony No. 7 (2002), Hsueh-Yung Shen's Legend (2002), and Charles Wuorinen's Theologoumenon (2007) and Time Regained (2009).

    James Levine

    Music Director James Levine has developed a relationship with the Metropolitan Opera that is unparalleled in its history and unique in the musical world today. Since his company debut in 1971, he has led nearly 2,500 performances of 85 operas at the Met, both in New York and on tour. This season at the Met, he conducted a new production of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro and a revival of Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (both of which were transmitted live in HD), as well as revivals of Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera, Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Verdi's Ernani, and Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress. He has also led all three concerts of the MET Orchestra's Carnegie Hall series and two concerts by the MET Chamber Ensemble in Weill and Zankel halls.

    Maestro Levine founded the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program in 1980, and returned Wagner's complete Ring  to the repertoire in 1989 (in the first integral cycles in 50 years at the Met). He and the MET Orchestra began touring in concert in 1991, and since then they have performed around the world, including at Expo '92 in Seville, in Japan, across the US, and throughout Europe.

    In addition to his responsibilities at the Met, Mr. Levine has been a distinguished pianist and an active and avid recital collaborator, especially in lieder and song repertoire. He began accompanying such artists as Jennie Tourel, Hans Hotter, and Eleanor Steber more than 50 years ago, and since that time has given recitals with most of the great singers of our time. From 1973 to 1993, he was music director of the Ravinia Festival, summer home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; became chief conductor from 1999 to 2004 of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra; and served as music director of the Verbier Festival Youth Orchestra from 2000 to 2004. From 2004 to 2011, he was music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Between 1996 and 2000, he led more than a dozen concerts on the Three Tenors World Tour, and he was conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the soundtrack of Disney's Fantasia 2000. He has conducted every major orchestra in America and Europe. 

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  • Yefim Bronfman

    In addition to his appearance with the MET Orchestra this afternoon, pianist Yefim Bronfman plays concerts this season with the symphony orchestras of Chicago, St. Louis, San Francisco, Dallas, Seattle, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh, as well as with the New World Symphony, New York Philharmonic, and Los Angeles Philharmonic. Last December, he played the world premiere of a concerto written for him by Jörg Widmann with the Berliner Philharmoniker, as well as performances of Magnus Lindberg's Concerto No. 2 with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also heard this season with The Cleveland Orchestra; at La Scala; on tour in Japan with London's Philharmonia Orchestra; in concerts in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, Beijing, Sydney, and Melbourne; and on a US tour with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and cellist Lynn Harrell.

    Mr. Bronfman has given numerous solo recitals throughout North America, Europe, and the Far East, including acclaimed debuts at Carnegie Hall in 1989 and Avery Fisher Hall in 1993. In 1991, he gave a series of joint recitals with Isaac Stern in Russia, marking Mr. Bronfman's first public performances there since his emigration to Israel at age 15. That same year, he was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize, one of the highest honors given to American instrumentalists.

    Widely praised for his solo, chamber, and orchestral recordings, Mr. Bronfman was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009 for his recording of Esa-Pekka Salonen's Piano Concerto with the composer conducting and with whom he won a Grammy Award in 1997 for his recording of the three Bartók piano concertos with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. His most recent CD releases include the 2014 Grammy-nominated recording of Magnus Lindberg's Piano Concerto No. 2, commissioned for him and performed by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Alan Gilbert; Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra; and recordings of all the Beethoven piano concertos as well as the Triple Concerto together with violinist Gil Shaham, cellist Truls Mørk, and the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich under David Zinman.

    Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Yefim Bronfman immigrated to Israel, where he studied with pianist Arie Vardi. In the US, he studied at The Juilliard School, Marlboro, and the Curtis Institute, and with Rudolf Firkušný, Leon Fleisher, and Rudolf Serkin.

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At a Glance

JOHANNES BRAHMS  Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15

Brahms began writing what would eventually become his Piano Concerto No. 1 in 1854, at a critical point in his early development as a composer. He originally began the piece as a sonata for two pianos, but soon reworked it, first as a symphony and ultimately as a piano concerto. Ambitious and sprawling, the concerto makes considerable demands on the listener’s attention and concentration, and though it presents more than enough of a challenge to the soloist, it is not overtly virtuosic and flashy. There is struggle and conflict, too, but rather than the customary back-and-forth between piano and ensemble, there is a sense of the soloist and orchestra united in grappling with a higher power.

HECTOR BERLIOZ  Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14

In the classical canon, there are precious few truly unprecedented works, pieces that at the time of their composition were so unexpected and deviated so drastically from convention that early audiences were shocked, confused, thrilled—and sometimes disgusted—in equal measure, and that, through revolution rather than evolution, changed the course of music history. Among these is Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, which both expanded the definition of what a symphony could be and gave birth to the new breed of vibrantly descriptive, viscerally dramatic program music that remained one of music’s strongest stylistic forces throughout the Romantic era. 

Program Notes
This performance is part of The MET Orchestra, and Sunday Afternoons.