During his visit to Eau Claire, pianist Kenny Broberg will be displaying the talent that earned him a Cliburn International Piano Competition silver medal. And the piece he’ll be performing will be a worthy test of his abilities.
Speaking by phone from Fort Worth, Texas, Broberg spoke respectfully about the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2, which he will be performing Saturday with the Chippewa Valley Symphony Orchestra.
“The challenges of the piece are huge,” he said. “It takes sort of superhuman virtuosity. It’s an extremely difficult piece. It’s hard to have the stamina, and also more importantly, it’s sort of a vision of the entire thing, the entire structure of the piece.
“That’s really probably the biggest challenge of it is making it coherent all the way throughout the entire piece,” he continued. “Because otherwise that could be a long 50 minutes.”
Told that Nobuyoshi Yasuda, the CVSO music director, mentioned the symphonic character of the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2, Broberg agreed.
“That’s absolutely true that it’s very much a symphonic work where the piano is very integrated with the orchestra,” he said. “It’s very soloistic but at the same time it’s very integrated. Its really one of the major concertos. It’s a monster of a piece.”
Broberg, a Minneapolis native, was in Fort Worth to perform at the 2020 Cliburn Festival, which this year celebrated the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.
Performing five concerts in four days, he made it sound as if it was a fitting celebration to the composer. His pieces included two sonatas, a song cycle, some cello variations and a four-hand sonata with another previous winner of the Cliburn competition.
(On May 8, the Chippewa Valley Symphony will play its own Beethoven birthday tribute, presenting his Symphony No. 9, joined by the Chippewa Valley Festival Choir and guest vocal soloists.)
Broberg said he has been back to Fort Worth for festivals three or four times since his silver medal performance in 2017.
“It’s always a lot of fun because they usually bring back other Cliburn people and you get to see them,” he said.
Through his success, the 26-year-old Broberg is in a good position to give advice to other young musicians. In those situations, he said, he would point to his emphasis on the music rather than the success aspect of his path.
“I think I did it the right way in that I wasn’t overwhelmed with the idea of building a career when I was too young,” he said. “I was just left alone to grow as a musician by myself and just learn to love this music. And I think that was important for me because it gave me the drive to know that was what I wanted to do as a career and it is something that I love. As a result, I think it comes from the right place.”
As an example of that mind-set, he explained how he approached the 2017 Cliburn Competition.
“I never set it as a goal that, OK, I’m going to get this medal in the Cliburn,” he said. “Obviously, I did once I applied to it. But even then I was just thinking, ‘OK, I’m going to play as well as I can. I wasn’t being like, ‘I’ve got to win the gold or something.’”
What he is certain about, though, is the importance of music in his life.
“I kind of have just known that I loved music and I wanted to do that in some way for a career, pretty much as far back as I can remember,” he said. “And I feel pretty lucky that I never had any doubt about that.”
Before college, Broberg played hockey and baseball, and while his music leaves no time for exercise, he continues to follow sports as a fan.
“Every Minnesota hockey game I’m tuned in on my phone,” he said.