Kenny Broberg is rapidly becoming a notable figure in the piano world. In 2016, he was a Grand Finalist in the Sydney International Piano Competition. The following year, he won the Silver Medal at the Van Cliburn competition in Fort Worth Texas, and in 2019 he won Third Prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Now, Broberg has returned to Australia to tour New South Wales and Victoria with his award-winning program, finishing at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Verbrugghen Hall.
The programme began with J.S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in A flat Major BWV 862, a piece that immediately showed Broberg’s ability to play expressively while still adhering strictly to the pulse and rhythmic structure. In addition to maintaining rhythmic stability, Broberg always ensured that there was clarity amongst all the voices in the fugue, each one with their own distinct character. Broberg’s bold interpretation made for an engaging start to the concert.
The next work was Beethoven’s Sonata No. 31 in A flat Major Op.110. While contrasting greatly in atmosphere, the fact that the Bach and the Beethoven both shared the same tonality allowed for a certain sense of continuity. Furthermore, being one of Beethoven’s “Late Period” works, the influence of Bach on Beethoven’s composing style was particularly clear with the previous Prelude and Fugue still resonating in our minds. Broberg’s tempo choice in the first movement allowed for a sense of forward momentum without feeling rushed, and in the third movement his incredible control over the tone meant the melody sung at all times throughout the ‘arioso dolente’.
Rounding out the first half of the program was Chopin’s Fantaisie in F minor Op.49. Broberg’s phrasing throughout was particularly charming, always allowing for breaths between each phrase and elegantly expanding the rubato without breaking the overall pulse. The piece also showcased Broberg’s virtuosity, with many sweeping arpeggios and scales handled deftly.
Commencing the second half of the program was Franck’s Prelude, Fugue et Variation Op.18, originally composed for organ but arranged by Harold Bauer for piano. Broberg was able to convey all the ideas of the piece clearly yet still bring forth the emotional intensity of the work, and as with all the contrapuntalism from the previous works in the program, allowed each melodic line to be heard in the fugue (despite a bothersome fly hovering around his face).
Closing the programme was Medtner’s mammoth Sonata in E minor Op.25 No.2, Night Wind. An enormous work spanning nearly 30 minutes, the piece required a combination of strength, stamina, emotional depth and restraint – all of which Broberg had in spades. What was perhaps even more impressive was his understanding of the overall architecture of the piece, despite there being no recurring theme or motif, or any distinct movements.
With both the audience, and of course Broberg himself, somewhat drained from the intensity of the Medtner, Broberg treated the audience to an encore of the Three Preludes by Gershwin. The preludes were not only a nice contrast to the intensity of the Medtner, but also showcased Broberg’s ability to play in a style that is much more stripped back and forward in character compared to the rest of his program. Just when the audience thought he had finished Broberg came back for one more, which was the 6th Movement of Debussy’s Children’s Corner, finishing the concert on a light and playful note.
A programme requiring not only technical agility but emotional depth as well, Broberg showed he was capable of both when needed. With a combination of gorgeous tone, expressiveness and intellect, Broberg navigated his way through treacherously difficult repertoire while simultaneously creating a strong atmosphere, and subsequently leaving an impact upon the audience. With competition prizes, recordings, and tours under his belt at the age of only 26, the world looks to be Kenny Broberg’s oyster.