San Diego Story
By Ken Herman
December 15, 2012
An ad campaign some years back cleverly proclaimed “You don’t have to be Jewish to like Levi’s Jewish Rye Bread.” You certainly don’t have to be Russian to play the music of Sergei Prokofiev, but after hearing Yefim Bronfman’s commanding, exuberant performance of Prokofiev’s Eighth Piano Sonata Friday (Dec. 14) at La Jolla’s Sherwood Auditorium, I could be persuaded that being Russian gives an inside track to interpreting this music.
When the 54-year-old Bronfman was born in Tashkent, it was part of the Soviet Union, and the young pianist grew up in the same repressive Soviet culture in which Prokofiev wrote his Eighth Piano Sonata (completed and premiered in 1944). A restless yet impassioned work, this sonata tries to keep its harmonic and structural modernisms hidden in the closet while dangling ample dulcet melodies to dupe Stalin’s musical censors.