Van Cliburn

Updated review: Cliburn semifinal round ends with lyrical grace, passion

Kenneth Broberg, of the United States, performs on the last day of the semifinal round of the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition at Bass Performance Hall.
Kenneth Broberg, of the United States, performs on the last day of the semifinal round of the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition at Bass Performance Hall. rmallison@star-telegram.com

Well, the solo recital phase of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is over. From now on, it’s all piano quintets and concertos until the awards are handed out Saturday evening.

The 12 semifinal contestants had a total of three solo recitals each, totaling about 150 minutes of playing. Multiply that by 12 if you are a jury member or dyed-in-the-wool competition fan. The 12 also each played a Mozart concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. That’s a lot of listening.

The final soloists Monday afternoon in Bass Hall were Leonardo Pierdomenico of Italy and Kenneth Broberg of the United States. Both are fine musicians, and their recitals produced some pleasurable moments.

Pierdomenico played Beethoven’s Sonata No. 4 and the four ballades of Chopin. The Beethoven was full of good cheer — maybe reflecting the influence of the composer’s teacher, Haydn. The four ballades are full of beautiful music, a point emphasized in Pierdomenico’s lyrical interpretations.

The same could be said of Broberg’s account of the four impromptus of Schubert’s Opus 90. His transition to Liszt’s sonata in B minor was quite a stylistic shift, but he managed it well, producing sounds that were downright pleasant, even to someone who is not particularly a fan of the composer.

The Mozart concerto phase was to come to an end on Monday evening.

A bit of statistical trivia: Half of the 12 semifinalists chose Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor. It’s a dramatic work — many people feel that the minor mode denotes seriousness — and having a bit of helping hand from Beethoven on the cadenza front doesn’t hurt.

Evening performances

The Mozart concerto phase came to an end on Monday evening.

The performers were Tony Yike Yang of Canada, playing Concerto No. 20 in D minor; Yekwon Sunwoo of South Korea, playing No. 21 in C major; Han Chen of Taiwan, also playing No. 21; and Rachel Cheung of Hong Kong, playing another D minor concerto

Except for Yang, who seemed to be a cut below the others, this session was a three-way tie, in my assessment. All combined lyrical grace and passion when called for and all seemed mature artists.

A bit of statistical trivia: Half of the 12 semifinalists chose Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor. It’s a dramatic work — many people feel that the minor mode denotes seriousness — and having a bit of helping hand from Beethoven on the cadenza front doesn’t hurt.

Four pianists chose Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C major, and one each chose the Concerto No. 23 in A major and the Concerto No. 25 in C.

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