Review: Kenny Broberg (Sydney International Piano Competition)
by Shirley Zhu, Limelight Magazine
The Fantaisie in F Minor is one of Chopin’s longest solo piano works, and features elegiac passages, marches and intense melodic passages. Departing from the style and approach he took up in the Beethoven, Broberg played with an incredible proficiency and purity of execution, offering high degrees of transparency and a sense of wonder.
Franck’s Prélude, Fugue et Variation was where Broberg’s musical prowess really began to shine. When a work is repetitive and relatively easy to understand, it becomes even more necessary to craft and find details that will let the work sing. Broberg did exactly that, as the colours of the piano shone each time the melody was re-enacted across the piano range.
With its peculiar harmonic sequences and virtuosic melodic runs, Medtner’s Night Wind sonata was an exceptionally demanding conclusion to the recital. However, this was a very well-executed performance by Broberg – his intentions were clear, as were the emotions, and it was most definitely the highlight of the evening.
After this, he presented a whopping four encores, reflecting his interest in jazz and 20th century works. He presented all three of Gershwin’s piano preludes, as well as Debussy’s Golliwogg’s Cakewalk, to rapturous applause.
Kenny Broberg will be familiar to many Australians as a standout of the 2016 Sydney International Piano Competition.
Since then he’s barely unpacked his suitcase: zig zagging across the globe to compete in just about every competition you can name and taking home numerous prizes and accolades, including the silver medal at the prestigious Van Cliburn Competition.
He tells Tamara about his dedication to the piano from a very early age, what participating in so many competitions has taught him, and the surprising reasons why Claudio Arrau is one of his all-time favourite pianists. His duet with Tamara is a beautiful Australian work he performed at the Sydney competition three years ago.
For American pianist Kenny Broberg, the final round of the 2016 Sydney International Piano Competition – which saw him perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 25 and Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No 2 with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra – feels like a long time ago. “So much has happened in my life since then,” he tells Limelight. “I’m playing a lot more now and I’ve matured a lot as a musician in that time.”
Since placing fourth in the competition in Sydney, Broberg has gone on to win the Silver Medal at the Van Cliburn Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2017 and Third Prize in the 2019 International Tchaikovsky Competition, held in Moscow in June. He’s returning to Australia not to compete, however, but to tour concerts across New South Wales and Victoria. So how different are the demands of touring compared with those of international competitions?
“I try to approach everything all the same,” he says. “That’s easier said than done.”
Ultimately, for the pianist, it’s all performance. “You’re playing music for people,” he says. “Competitions are a little bit more stressful – and sometimes that can be a good thing – but you know sometimes I feel more freer in a normal concert situation. And I feel like I can open myself up better.”
Treating both scenarios the same is also a way to deal with the high pressure of elite competitions. “It’s important for me to remember that regardless of whether I’m playing in front of 150 people or whether I’m playing in front of 10 million people over the Internet, I’m still the same person, and I’m still the same musician,” Broberg says. “When I sit down at the piano it’s exactly the same, it’s the same thing I do every day. And for me that’s a comforting thought.”
Always a Winner: Cliburn Silver Medalist Kenny Broberg returns to Cowtown for an interesting program of well- and lesser-known works.
by Wayne Lee Gay, Theater Jones
Pianist Kenny Broberg, Silver Medalist of the 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, returned to Fort Worth Thursday night for a recital on The Cliburn concert series at the Kimbell Art Museum, and led his audience through a superbly conceived, brilliantly executed journey from darkness to light.
The program itself was unceasingly fascinating, combining little-known and well-known works in a way that effectively “sold” and underlined the genius of each item. Broberg, 25, is a son of the American Heartland, educated in Houston and Kansas City, but he is definitely worthy of the international spotlight—just like the namesake of this recital series, who also happened to be a son of the Heartland. With this concert, Broberg demonstrated a blazing intellect, impeccable technical skills, and the ability to build a strikingly imaginative and intelligent program.
Broberg opened in the insistently dark B-minor terrain of 19th-century Belgian-French composer César Franck’s Prelude, Fugue, and Finale, a work originally written for organ but skillfully and sonorously transposed for piano by early 20th-century British pianist Harold Bauer. Here, Broberg brought out the unique architecture of this masterpiece of the keyboard repertoire while demonstrating an almost miraculous array of tone qualities.
The clouds became even darker with late romantic Russian composer Nikolai Medtner’s Sonata No. 2, as stormy and exhilarating as its name implies—and, at 34 minutes, one of the most demanding monuments of the piano repertoire. Broberg coolly attacked the hundreds of thousands of notes, and convincingly ranged from the brief moments of lyricism and hints of majesty (including heart stopping dramatic pauses) to an overall dominant aura of doom. Even this jaded critic and veteran of decades in the audience of piano recitals could sense a moment to remember here.