Calendar Picks and Clicks: July 28 – August 2, 2012


SAT | JULY 28

“SACRED/SAUCY”
Tonight’s tasty and spiritual shindig features a taco truck, beer, stories and Havdalah. Afterward, a talented local lineup of queer and ally poets, musicians and storytellers perform. Organized by East Side Jews, the Jewish Federation’s Young Adults of Los Angeles and JQ International. Sat. 7 p.m. $10. Private residence, 2138 Baxter St., Los Angeles. (323) 663-2255. eastsidejews.com.

“THE BIG LEBOWSKI”
When a case of mistaken identity draws Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski into a kidnapping scheme, he enlists the help of bowling buddy Walter Sobchak (“I don’t roll on Shabbos!”) in the Coen brothers’ L.A. noir comedy. Attendees bring picnic dinners, drinks (alcohol permitted), pillows and blankets for this screening at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, part of the summer series Cinespia Presents. A DJ spins records before and afterward. All ages welcome. Sat. 7:30 p.m. (door), 9 p.m. (show). $10. Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. cinespia.org.

“INSIGHT: THE HATE SYNDROME”
“The Hate Syndrome,” a rare 1966 episode of Emmy-winning religious anthology series “Insight,” explores anti-Semitism via a dark morality tale about a violent confrontation between an elderly Hebrew teacher and an unstable former pupil who has become a neo-Nazi. Written by “Twilight Zone” and “Night Gallery” creator Rod Serling, “The Hate Syndrome” screens along with “A Carol for Another Christmas” — Serling’s 1964 Cold War update of “A Christmas Carol” — and a trailer for “Seven Days in May,” Serling’s 1964 film that pits the president against the U.S. military. Part of “Rod Serling: Other Dimensions,” a retrospective of Serling’s contributions to television and cinema that feature his hard-edged narratives, psychologically driven characters and humanist take on controversial issues. Sat. 7:30 p.m. $10. Billy Wilder Theater, Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 462-4921. cinema.ucla.edu.
 
“FASCINATING RHYTHM: THE MUSIC OF GEORGE AND IRA GERSHWIN”
“I’ve Got Rhythm,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “Nice Work, If You Can Get It” will be among the hits performed by local talent during Spotlight the Arts’ fourth annual summer cabaret. Performers include Boston Conservatory students Taylor Shubert, Paige Berkovitz and Rachel Hirschfield; Point Park University student Jenny Lester; and College-Conservatory of Music student Dylan Shubert. Sat. 8 p.m. $12 (general), $10 (seniors, students), $6 (children, 10 and under). Calabasas Library Amphitheatre, 200 Civic Center Way, Calabasas. (818) 436-0530. spotlightthearts.org.


 
SUN | JULY 29

“THE VALDERAMA SISTERS” AND “MY OWN TELENOVELA”
Today’s double feature at the Skirball includes two films that provide vastly different views on the relationship between Israel and Latin America. “The Valderama Sisters” follows former Catholics who seek a path to Judaism and Israel, while “My Own Telenovela” accompanies a filmmaker who leaves Israel and travels back to his native Argentina to care for family members. Part of the Skirball’s annual film series “Documentos.” Sun. 2 p.m. $6 (general), $5 (Skirball members, students). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.


 
TUE | JULY 31

YEFIM BRONFMAN
Israeli-American pianist Bronfman performs Johannes Brahms’ finger-busting “Piano Concerto No. 2,” which at 50 dramatic minutes has the length of a four-movement symphony. The program also features the Los Angeles Philharmonic with conductor Lionel Bringuier. A rendition of Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” rounds out the evening. Tue. 8 p.m. $1-$133. 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood. (323) 850-2000. hollywoodbowl.com.


 
THU | AUG 2

THE ALAEV FAMILY
Blending Central Asian, Turkish, Persian and Russian traditions as well as the Jewish music of Bukhara, the Israel-based multigenerational eight-member ensemble performs tonight at Skirball. Part of the museum’s “Sunset Concerts” live music series. Arrive early to dine under the stars, tour the Skirball’s galleries and explore the museum’s architecture and hillside setting. Thu. 8 p.m. Free (concert), $10 (parking per car, cash only). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.

LOVEFEST
Dance, discover romance, and mingle in the moonlight during Jewlicious’ cocktail garden party in celebration of Tu b’Av, the Jewish holiday of love. A live performance by gypsy trio Kimera, aphrodisiac snacks and more highlight the festivities. Thu. 9 p.m.-midnight. $10 (advance), $15 (door). Rabbi Yonah and Rachel Bookstein’s private residence, 1134 S. Crest Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 277-5544. jconnectla.com.

Technique, sensitivity the keys to pianist Bronfman’s success


When Yefim Bronfman performs Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto with conductor Lionel Bringuier and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl on July 31, he will be tackling what is known as a real “finger buster,” a term used for a work that is awkwardly conceived for a pianist’s hands or physically demanding. The Brahms concerto is both.

For Bronfman, who is celebrated for his virtuoso technique and musical sensitivity, the epic difficulty of Brahms’ score is pretty much business as usual, although something unusual happened during a Berkeley recital last October: While performing the final two pages of Prokofiev’s Eighth Sonata, Bronfman literally busted a finger.

“I felt a very sharp pain,” the pianist said by phone from his apartment in New York. “Luckily, it was the last piece on the program. I finished the recital and managed to play two encores.”

Bronfman traveled to Los Angeles the next day, then straight into a rehearsal of Bartok’s Third Concerto with the Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel. “I realized there was a problem,” he said.

A doctor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center gave Bronfman the bad news. He had broken the fourth finger of his left hand, and it would take four to six weeks to heal. Concerts would have to be canceled. But Bronfman was determined not to miss an upcoming European tour on which he was scheduled to play all three Bartok concertos with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra. So he did what any driven musician would do: He went to another doctor.

“I did not miss a single concert in Europe,” he said. And, since breaking his finger, he’s also performed Prokofiev’s Eighth Sonata. Was there any trepidation when he came to those last two pages of the breathtakingly powerful finale?

“What is scary about this piece is the middle section of the last movement,” Bronfman said. “That’s when you feel the pain in your hands because it’s so grotesque and with such gigantic leaps there. You cannot take it easy at this point. It’s the most wonderful moment of the whole piece.”

Bronfman clearly likes challenges. Within the last five years, he’s performed premieres of demanding concertos by Salonen and Magnus Lindberg. Both composers have added to the pressure by delivering their scores late. “When trying to learn the Lindberg, I realized some of the passages are really unplayable,” Bronfman said. “Did he think I was like a piano machine that could play anything?”

But Bronfman has sympathy for composers who try to broaden the scope of piano technique. “When Prokofiev wrote his piano sonatas, people said they were impossible. But then came [Sviatoslav] Richter and [Emil] Gilels, and now everybody plays them.”

Few living pianists get the honor of being immortalized in a major novel by an esteemed author. In Philip Roth’s “The Human Stain” (2000), the narrator attends a rehearsal at Tanglewood and says: “Then Bronfman appears … He is conspicuously massive through the upper torso, a force of nature camouflaged in a sweatshirt. … He doesn’t let that piano conceal a thing.”

For Bronfman, Roth’s dramatic tribute came as a surprise. “I was amazed at his description, but I had no idea who Philip Roth was,” he said. The pianist laughed, recalling Roth’s unflattering detail about his being a “sturdy little barrel of an unshaven Russian Jew.” The two artists have since become good friends.

Surprisingly, Bronfman, who is 54, didn’t learn Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto until 1988. “I recommend that every pianist learn some difficult pieces while they are still in their teens,” he said. “For instance, I learned Brahms’ First Concerto when I was 15, and it’s always much easier than the Second, where it takes a certain stretch in your hands and technique to bring it off effortlessly.”

Bronfman said he doesn’t want audiences to see the difficulties: “I put the technical challenges behind me as soon as possible so I can focus on the concerto’s grandeur and passion, intimacy and beauty,” he said. “And there’s the humor of the last movement. It’s Brahms at his most mature and divine.”

Bronfman also avoids distracting mannerisms at the keyboard.

“My greatest idols are the ones who played with poker faces and made great music,” Bronfman said. “Heifetz was such a genius. He didn’t lift an eyebrow. The same with Horowitz and Rubinstein. I pay for a ticket to hear music. If I want to see a dance, I go to the ballet.”

Born and raised in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, Bronfman said his arrival in Israel in 1973 marked a turning point in his young life.

“I was about 14 years old, and Israel was where I decided I wanted to be a musician,” Bronfman said. “Within months of arriving, I heard some of the greatest musicians. Everybody was coming through Tel Aviv—Casals, Stern, Bernstein. Everybody.”

Bronfman, who holds dual citizenship, returns to Israel quite often, both to visit his older sister, Elizabeth, a violinist with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and to perform with the orchestra there.

Being an Israeli and Jewish has deeply informed his life and work: “My mother is a Holocaust survivor, and my father was in the military fighting Germans during the war,” Bronfman said. “I’m very aware of the past of the Jewish people, particularly my mother, who is a direct victim of those horrible times. She was 13 when the war started. Most of her family got killed. She hid in the forest from the Germans.”

Bronfman added: “It makes a difference. Also, living in the Soviet Union, where Jews definitely felt like second-class citizens.”

In addition to his Bowl performance, Bronfman is scheduled to perform a solo recital in January at Walt Disney Concert Hall. “I’m going to try to play Prokofiev’s Eighth Sonata without breaking my finger,” he said.

Yefim Bronfman performs at the Hollywood Bowl on July 31 at 8 p.m. For more information, visit hollywoodbowl.com.


Rick Schultz writes about music for the Los Angeles Times and other publications.