This is a season for Sergei Prokofiev. The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Miguel Harth-Bedoya and Vadym Kholodenko are winding up recording the Russian composer’s five piano concertos for later release on Harmonia Mundi.
And on Tuesday night, Yefim Bronfman presented an all-Prokofiev program including four of the nine piano sonatas.
None of this was boring, because Prokofiev was a man of many musical moods and stylistic adventures.
Tuesday night’s Cliburn at the Bass program was a demonstration of that variety. It included two of the best-known Prokofiev sonatas and two of the least-known.
You’d likely never guess that all four are by the same composer unless you knew beforehand.
The very least known is probably the Sonata No. 1 in F minor. This turned out to be a busy work, mostly in quick tempos, and — the big surprise — with hints of Sergei Rachmaninoff and even Johannes Brahms in the musical thicket. This was not the sardonic Prokofiev of later reputation.
By the way, the complete sonata came in at about six minutes. No time for tedium there.
The first of Tuesday’s best-known sonatas was the Sonata No. 6 in A Major. It is often grouped with the seventh and eighth sonatas, the three being called the “war sonatas” and associated with World War II.
It’s not clear that Prokofiev had this in mind. The sixth sonata was composed more than a year before Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and it could be argued that none of the three (except possibly the seventh) is particularly bellicose.
At any rate, the sixth sonata has some tough music but also some contemplative and perky passages.
A big contrast was the Sonata No. 5 in C Major, which was the third work on the Bass Hall program. This is a lovely and mostly gentle work whose playfulness and contemplative mood were a shift from the more rugged music surrounding it.
The finale was the Sonata No. 7, which, like the sixth sonata, is a Cliburn competition mainstay. Its hypnotic second movement and dramatic finale represent the Prokofiev that most music-lovers know.
Bronfman was impressive throughout. His evocative performance was mood-setting in tranquil passages and compelling in moments of musical drama. The seventh sonata was a potent conclusion to the scheduled program. The encore, a lovely piece by Schumann, was a strikingly effective shift in mood.