On Oct. 9, UNO’s music department held its first Musical Excursions event of the academic year, inviting 23-year-old, 2017 Cliburn silver-medal pianist Kenny Broberg to provide an evening of exceptional music. In addition to Broberg’s career-establishing win at the Fifteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, he also has a strong history of victories at events in Hastings, Dallas, Sydney, Seattle, Wideman and New Orleans. Such prowess presented itself at UNO’s very own Recital Hall stage on that Monday night from 7 p.m. to 8:40 p.m. as Broberg entertained the audience with selections from César Franck, Earl Wild, Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt.
Director of the School of Arts and music department chair Dr. Charles Taylor presented the successful musician. He recalled a particular competition performance of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, which caused them to cross paths, and shared that this Monday evening at UNO was “a good time to get reacquainted with an old friend.”
Once introduced, Broberg sat at the piano and informed the audience that he must alter the program “because he was feeling under the weather.” He apologized, declaring that the Samuel Barber Sonata for Piano was “very taxing,” and replaced it and Bach’s Toccata in CMinor, BWV 911 with Chopin’s Mazurkas, Op.59 and an Improvisation on Gershwin by Earl Wild. Broberg began the evening with Franck’s Harold Bauer Prelude, Fugue et Variation, op. 18, and ended it on a memorable note with Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor.
“I have never heard these pieces before, but I liked them,” said foreign exchange student Janina Deisenreider.
The first piece, a prelude by Franck arranged by Harold Bauer, was decidedly romantic, at first soothing and then taking a moody turn. Despite his illness, Broberg was able to play the piece with a marked vigour.
Where the Samuel Barber Sonata and Bach BMV 911 would have been, Broberg entertained with the first and third mazurkas of Chopin’s Opus 26, which were short but pretty. Though these mazurkas were not planned for the program, Broberg recalled them perfectly, giving a hint of his intimidating repertoire.
Following this was the Earl Wild Improvisation on Gershwin, a piece full of embellishments and bright, arching melodies. The audience’s emotional investment mounted throughout the piece and all the way to the end until it was time for intermission.
Those who waited through the break were rewarded with a stunning rendition of Liszt’s famous Sonata in B Minor, a piece with the rare ability to embed in the mind even upon first listening. Broberg’s fingers flew frenetically across the keys during this performance, and he even managed to wipe his runny nose once while flourishing his hands. During this long, compelling work, Broberg moved his face expressively, slumping gently with the softer sounds and hovering with emotion over the deeper, faster phrases. As usual, this classical concert saved the best piece for last.
Meanwhile, some might agree that the music department scheduled the best performer for first! How did UNO get so lucky? Broberg wasn’t sure. “My agent at Cliburn really takes care of it,” he said.
He goes wherever he is hired to go – which means a great deal of travel.
“It’s a lot easier when you’re not sick,” Broberg said. “It’s a lot of flying. You get to go to a lot of different places and meet a lot of different people.”
Despite having performed in countless prestigious concert halls around the globe, he is ready for more. “I still haven’t performed in Carnegie Hall,” he said.
UNO’s music department and arts administration hold Musical Excursions events throughout the academic year, inviting individuals and groups of distinguished reputations to perform classical music in the Performing Arts Center. These events attract students, alumni, and faculty, including UNO President Dr. Nicklow, who attended the Oct. 9 concert. The usual audience size is about 60 people.
Tickets are free for current UNO students, $10 for senior citizens and other students, and $15 for all other patrons. “It is a bargain to see a world-class pianist for $10,” says director of arts administration Dr. James Marchant,
Visit musicalexcursions.uno.edu for more information about the upcoming concerts on Oct. 24, Nov. 14 and March 20. Events begin at 7 p.m. and aresponsored by the Harper Family Foundation, the Mitchiner-Gittinger Family Foundation, 89.9 WWNO, Muriel’s, The Maison Dupuy and UNO Student Government.