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.
Filling in Due to Flu, Kenny Broberg Shines in Minnesota Orchestra Concerto Debut Terry Blain, Star Tribune
A week ago, pianist Kenny Broberg’s phone rang in Kansas City, Mo. It was the Minnesota Orchestra, asking could he possibly stand in for a flu-stricken André Watts at the coming weekend’s subscription concerts…
Friday evening’s performance of the “Emperor,” Broberg’s concerto debut at Orchestra Hall, showed exactly why the Cliburn judges rated him so highly.
One obvious feature of his playing was the bright, pearly tone quality. It animated the glimmering cascades of notes in the piano’s flamboyant opening gestures and put a bright smile on the many episodes of silvery trilling that Beethoven asks for in the concerto.
The slow movement had a clean, pellucid beauty, without a trace of sentimentality or false straining for profundity…
But this was nonetheless a highly auspicious debut, marked by poise, technical brilliance and a welcome lack of the narcissistic body language so many pianists see fit to indulge in.
Pianist Kenny Broberg will replace André Watts as the featured soloist in both Minnesota Orchestra concerts this weekend. Mr. Watts is ill with the flu and unfortunately unable to perform. Conducted by John Storgårds, the program will remain unchanged, featuring Beethoven’s Concerto No. 5, Emperor, and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony. The concerts are slated for 8 p.m. on Friday, February 23, and 8 p.m. Saturday, February 24, at Orchestra Hall.
Exquisite Economy: A Recital by Kenny Broberg
Dr. Gary Lemco, Peninsula Reviews
With a spellbound audience still in thrall, Kenny Broberg raised his hands away from the keyboard, Sunday afternoon, January 21 at Le Petit Trianon, having just executed a titanic rendition of the Liszt Sonata in B Minor that immediately garnered a paroxysm of praise. Mr. Broberg appeared under the auspices of the Steinway Society the Bay Area in music by Franck, Bach, Debussy, and Liszt, in which each selection demonstrated the structural economy of imaginative materials, deftly transfigured into brilliant keyboard vehicles.
Broberg opened with Harold Bauer’s 1910 transcription of Cesar Franck’s finely chiseled organ piece, Prelude, Fugue and Variation (1862), which Franck dedicated to another skilled organist, Camille Saint-Saens. The piece opens with a graceful simplicity in Franck’s favorite B Minor, with a tender, flowing melody not far from Bach’s Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier. The pattern that ensues involves askew five-bar phrases, each rounded out in the manner Schumann employs to achieve “classical” architecture. Before the three-voice Fugue section opens, it, too, has a brief prelude. The Variation part simply reintroduces the opening motif accompanied by fast-moving figures. Broberg made the work eminently clear, polished, and refined, his pedal a model of graduated dynamics.
American Dreaming: Cliburn Silver medalist Kenneth Broberg and five local pianists thrill in the Cliburn at the Modern’s American Showpieces concert
J. Robin Coffelt, Theater Jones
The Cliburn at the Modern series is best known for its composer forums. But Saturday’s concert, although it did include the work of 20th and 21st century American composers, instead highlighted several local pianists—as well as one guest.
The five DFW-based pianists on Saturday’s program proved the depth of musical talent in our area. Catharine Lysinger, Evan Mitchell, Jonathan Tsay, Alex McDonald, and concert moderator Shields-Collins Bray are all formidable pianists, though each brought his or her own temperament and strengths. The only non-local musician was 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Silver Medalist Kenny Broberg.
The repertoire on the program was all American, and with one exception, was from 1977 or later. That outlier was Broberg’s contribution, the Fuga from Samuel Barber’s 1949 Sonata for Piano, Op. 26. This sonata movement, which ended the program, was not the lyrical Barber that we recognize from, say, the Adagio for Strings or the Violin Concerto. Instead, this is thorny, unmelodic, but impressively complex, with as many as six voices. Broberg executed this immensely difficult repertoire with seeming ease, leaving little doubt as to why he was selected as a Cliburn medalist.
Review: An Exhilarating and Promising Start to Season Brian Hick, Hastings & St. Leonards Observer
Kenny Broberg won the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competiton and has an impressive list of international orchestras with whom he has worked. He certainly seemed much at ease with Hastings Philharmonic for Beethoven’s Emperor concerto, relishing the rapport between himself and the players as well as the close proximity of the audience. It must be rare to find himself surrounded by people, the piano being situated in the centre of the concert hall, rather than at one end.
The immediacy paid off with a virtuoso performance of exceptional dynamic range. The near thwacked scale runs in the first movement melted into the gentlest of touches, and there was an improvisatory feel to much of his playing which communicated a sense of living creativity rather than regurgitation of the familiar.
The second movement was particularly impressive with a sense of the romantic movement hovering over the development of his musical line. Carried away, there were times when Broberg seemed to want to sing along with his own playing and had to hold himself back.
The finale had a sense of joy and life, which radiated from the soloist and players to the whole hall. We were lucky to get an encore – a brief Chopin Mazurka – which was a gem and left us wanting more.
Kenny Broberg is a current graduate student at Park University International Center for Music. At only 23 years old, he has already shown his spark for success at international competitions such as winning first prize at both the Hastings (England) and Dallas, as well as medals at other competitions including New Orleans, Seattle, and Sydney. Broberg is an extremely talented pianist and is certain to have a prosperous career as an artist. His strong and satisfying sound at the piano along with clear and sensible phrasing, made for an exquisite concert Sunday afternoon at the Folly Theater.
Broberg began the concert with César Franck’s Prelude, Fugue, and Variations in B Minor, Op. 18. This piece is not necessarily known to all pianists because it is originally for organ; Harold Bauer transcribed it for piano. Broberg’s performance of the piece was astounding! I have not heard a better rendition. Because it was to be played on the organ, there are a lot of leaps and jumps in the music to try and imitate the wide range of powerful sounds the organ can make. This was not an issue for Broberg; his careful timing and full resonant sound at the piano made it look effortless. He was always attentive to the singing melody in the Prelude and was distinct with the subject in the Fugue and Variations. Not only did he give the necessary attention to the melody at all times, but his awareness and treatment of the inner voices, or the counterpoint, was amazing. Even the smallest of details in the music were observed.
His intricate artistry continued in the Toccata in C Minor, BWV 911 by Bach. There are many interpretations of how to play Bach at the piano; I think every pianist comes up with their own idea and execution of the “correct style.” What matters most is that the performance was convincing. Broberg’s interpretation was unquestionably conclusive. His strong technical agility showed in this piece, especially for the virtuosic writing of Bach. The way he treated each voice throughout the piece showed his true mastery at the piano. He achieved a variety of sounds and colors in the Toccata, which made for a compelling performance.
The Barber Piano Sonata is a beast of a piece. This virtuosic showpiece in four movements includes extended chromaticism, tone rows, highly dissonant chords, and other many twentieth-century musical ideas that Barber incorporated. In lighter terms, it is a very difficult piece! Broberg had no trouble with these features of the music. It is easy to get bogged down with the opening motive of the first movement, this did not happen. He played with such purpose and direction in the music, it just made sense. Broberg’s strong presentation of the various characteristics throughout the piece brought out the unique soundscapes and colors in the music. The fourth movement is probably the hardest part of the piece because of the four-voice fugue and the devilishly demanding ending: but we could hear every note and chord.
Describing the Liszt Piano Sonata as a ‘difficult’ piece is an understatement. It demands virtuosity, drama, and a high emotional connection to the music. Some scholars suggest this sonata has four movements, but the piece is through-composed and doesn’t stop in-between sections. Broberg’s approach to this piece was bold and fearless in the fast and fervent sections, and sensitive in the middle, more introverted parts. We heard the same attentiveness to details throughout this sonata as we did in the Barber. He channeled Liszt’s audacious personality in his playing. Despite an odd, random ringing in the hall during the middle portion of the sonata, Broberg retained his unwavering focus and his playing did not falter.
The program Broberg played represented some large forms of piano composition, and so for his encores, we got to experience two short pieces of a smaller scale, Chopin’s Mazurka in F-sharp Minor from the Op. 59 set of Mazurkas and Gershwin’s Virtuoso Etude No. 3 “Embraceable You.” Just like the rest of the program, Broberg had the audience at his fingertips during these two pieces. Not only did they showcase his virtuosity, but his sense of romantic passion in the music, his understanding of musical timing and the superb simplicity of his sound.
Today, Kenny takes home the silver medal at the prestigious 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
Originally attracting 290 applications from all over the world, the competition invited 30 competitors to participate in the live competition lasting over two weeks in Fort Worth, Texas. Kenny advanced through the four rounds and performed Rachmaninoff’s renowned Variations on a Theme by Paginini with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra led by Leonard Slatkin in his culminating performance.
If you missed Kenny’s performances at the competition, you can still watch them at cliburn2017.medici.tv.
Review of Kenny’s Semifinal Performance with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and Nicholas McGegan
Wayne Lee Gay, Texas Classical Review
“American Kenneth Broberg, performing the Concerto No. 25 in C, and making his first appearance in the semifinal round, gave plenty of cause to perk up tired ears on the third day of semifinal performances. Picking up on McGegan’s carefully shaped and eventful presentation of the orchestral introduction, he responded with an imaginative shaping of themes, revelation of inner voices, and an unfailing sense of momentum in each movement. His solo entry in the slow movement encapsulated his performance: the simple three-note descending broken chord absolutely drew the audience in. (In an amusing improvisational touch in the first movement, he added a bit of La Marseillaise, mimicking a rising motif from the movement, into the cadenza.) This is the sort of performance one would long to hear more often on those occasions when symphony orchestras program Mozart concertos.”