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Yefim Bronfman and Emanuel Ax talk 'New York Phil' / Playbill

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The New York Philharmonic regularly features first-class soloists from around the world, but it is always a special event when local heroes take the stage. This month two beloved New York–based pianists are joining the Orchestra in concerts that promise to offer spectacular music-making. Yefim Bronfman, who was honored with a seat on the Orchestra's Board after many appearances with the organization, will be heard in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2 on January 16, 18, 19, and 22. And Emanuel Ax, named an Honorary Member of the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Society after performing his 100th concert with the ensemble, returns in a musical double header, January 30–31, and February 1–2, playing Haydn's Piano Concerto in D major, Hob.XVIII:11, and Stravinsky's Capriccio.

The two longtime friends admire each other's talents. "Fima," as his friends call Bronfman, was famously cited by novelist Philip Roth as a titan to whom a piano must surrender with "hands in the air." Yet, says Ax, Bronfman is not only "a powerhouse physically, but also artistically. What makes him special is the sensibility-a wonderful heart and mind." (When told of what "Manny" says of him, Fima says the feeling is mutual.) Audiences will enjoy that side of his artistry as he plays one of Beethoven's more classically restrained works. But in some ways, Bronfman believes, this Beethoven concerto is "epic. It's actually very difficult. He wrote it for himself to perform and the passagework is challenging. But if someone said when I perform, ‘It looked very difficult,' I would retire that day."   PHOTO: Lisa Marie Mazzucco