Kenneth Broberg at the 2017 Cliburn competition
Music and Opera reporting on is made possible by The University of North Texas College of Music.
Select the link below to discover more.

Review: American Showpieces | The Cliburn | The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

American Dreaming

Cliburn Silver medalist Kenneth Broberg and five local pianists thrill in the Cliburn at the Modern's American Showpieces concert.

published Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Photo: Ralph Lauer/The Cliburn
Kenneth Broberg at the 2017 Cliburn competition

Fort WorthThe 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.

But the local pianists were also impressive—Catharine Lysinger performed Bernstein’s “Touches,” the commissioned work for the 1981 Cliburn Competition. Though the tempo indication suggests that the work is to have “a blues feel,” it is a theme and set of variations, all performed attaca. As with the Barber, for those only accustomed to the Bernstein-as-melodist of West Side Story or the Overture to Candide, this piece will come as a surprise. However, for those who know his more serious work, the musical language will seem familiar. Lysinger’s approach was sure, and she teased out a sense of line.

Evan Mitchell performed two brief pieces, Frederic Rzewski’s 1977 Piano Piece No. 4 and his 1981 “Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues.” In the former, Rzewski uses the piano’s potential as a percussion instrument, asking the pianist to incorporate the entire range of the keyboard, as well. Mitchell’s showmanship and impressive pianism was an ideal fit for this repertoire. In the latter piece, Rzewski, known for inserting social commentary into his music, has the pianist imitate the mechanistic sound of the mill, beginning with two bass notes a half step apart and morphing into forearm clusters. While the piece does not explicitly evoke the despondent lyrics of the blues song on which it is based (“When I die don’t bury me at all/ Just hang me up on the spoolroom wall”), it nevertheless manages to suggest the workers’ oppression and the unceasing monotony of their work. Mitchell channeled this into a technically and musically impressive package—I can hardly imagine a more satisfactory performance.

Alex McDonald, a local favorite and 2013 Cliburn competitor, performed David Del Tredici’s Virtuoso Alice, one of several pieces Del Tredici has written inspired by Alice in Wonderland. McDonald is truly something special as a musician. His rich, expressive tone combines with a sure technical hand for Del Tredici’s experiments in late 20th century tonality.

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra pianist Shields-Collins Bray, who moderated the afternoon’s proceedings with informative good humor, also performed John Corigliano’s “Winging It,” a set of three improvisations that Corigliano notated from a year’s worth of daily improvisations in 2007 and 2008. The three ranged from the lyrical to the wickedly technical, and Bray was at home in both modes.

The real standout was Ensemble75 Artistic Director Jonathan Tsay. His brilliance and his comfort in a variety of musical languages shows why he is a sought-after musician in DFW and beyond. He delighted the audience with Morton Gould’s Boogie Woogie Etude and Aaron Jay Kernis’ Superstar Etude No. 1, which culminated with a set of forearm clusters as Tsay shouted, “Oooh, Baby!” repeatedly.

So much for staid classical concerts. Thanks For Reading

View the Article Slideshow
Click or Swipe to close
American Dreaming
Cliburn Silver medalist Kenneth Broberg and five local pianists thrill in the Cliburn at the Modern's American Showpieces concert.
by J. Robin Coffelt

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
Click or Swipe to close
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web

Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:

Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:

TheaterJones Section:

Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  

Your Name:
Your Email Adress:

please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :