Reviews of the Fifteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition will run for each of the six finalists in separate files. The first review will be the piano quintet round with the Brentano String Quartet, from Wednesday and Thursday; and the second review, of the concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, will be added onto each file.
To see bios and complete repertoire of all pianists here.
For quick links to all our Cliburn reviews, click here.
United States, 23
with Brentano String Quartet
Mark Steinberg, violin | Serena Canin, violin | Misha Amory, viola | Nina Lee, cello
DVOŘÁK Piano Quintet in A Major, op. 81
Nina Lee’s cello opening caught us and Brentano String Quartet’s performance carried us along to the end. There were two hesitations about the pianist.
The first was the erratic tempi. Slows were too slow and fasts were too fast. A perfect example is the scherzo. He set a brisk tempo, almost too fast for the notes to speak—which was fine. But the trio was slower than it should be to match the scherzo. It sounded like they all started another piece. The relationship between the scherzo and the trio is an important one for this very reason. They should sound like they are in the same movement.
The other issue was that Broberg didn’t appear to collaborate for most of the way. He was often too loud, covering the quartet and, at least from where I was sitting, didn’t appear to have much contact with the first violinist. Part of this is the way the stage is set up. Usually the string quartet is seated so that the violins are adjacent to the piano’s music stand. Here, they are right in front of the pianist so the pianist must turn his head to the side to see the first violin. That's odd. Plus, while the Brentano is fantastic, the point of this competition is to see and hear the pianist.
with Fort Worth Symphony
Leonard Slatkin, conductor
RACHMANINOFF Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, op. 43
This piece isn’t technically a concerto. It is a theme from a Paganini Caprice and a set of 24 variations. This theme has been used by several composers for the same purpose. There is also a cameo appearance of Dies Irae, a chant from the middle ages that describes the “day of wrath.” This theme has also been (over)used in even more works than the Paganini Caprice. The 18th variation has earned a place in the popular music world from its use in movies, such as Jeannot Szwarc’s 1980 three-hanky romance Somewhere in Time.
As far as its inclusion in the concerto repertoire, even though it is played with only a few pauses between variations, it can be divided into the traditional three movements. It is always listed on the most difficult concerto list, mostly because of the final (24th) variation. Even Rachmaninoff himself was afraid of it.
None of this bothered Broberg. Covering the pianist with the orchestra’s fierceness in the big movements is always a problem, but I only noticed it in a few towering places, such as the huge statement of the aforementioned Dies Irae.
The combination of conductor Slatkin’s careful attention to balance and Broberg’s not overplaying all the time brought us a clear and transparent performance.
Of course, Broberg has a remarkable technique, keen musical instincts and great sensitivity. He tamed all the technical aspects, even the fearful 24th variation, along with some appropriate use of rubato. This performance should raise his score.
Other reviews for Kenneth Broberg:
CLIBURN COMPETITION SCHEDULE
See links to all of our reviews that have posted here.
See the schedule of final performances here.
- Wednesday, June 7: 7:30 p.m.
- Thursday, June 8: 7:30 p.m.
- Friday, June 9: 7:30 p.m.
- Saturday, June 10: 3 p.m.
- Saturday, June 10: 7 p.m.