Van Cliburn

Practice makes perfect: Cliburn finalists reaching for greatness

Kenneth Broberg, of the United States, is a finalist in the Cliburn competition.
Kenneth Broberg, of the United States, is a finalist in the Cliburn competition.

Yuri Favorin has no time for sightseeing this week, his second time in Fort Worth.

In 2013, the Russian pianist didn’t make it past the preliminary round at the Cliburn piano competition, so his host family, Karen and Chris Hull took him to all of the local tourist attractions when he was eliminated.

“We showed him everything. From Fort Worth to Dallas to longhorn cows, everything and it was a wonderful experience,” said Karen Hull, adding she had hoped Favorin’s experience this time at the Cliburn would be better. “When we found out he was returning, it was just meant to be. We just had this amazing feeling.”

This time, Favorin, 30, made it to the finals.

“I have no special plans,” Favorin said in an interview after he was named a finalist. “Just practicing and resting a little bit in-between.”

Even though Favorin has started working as part of the faculty of the Moscow Conservatory, he decided to enter the Cliburn one more time, “to have more listeners.”

The oldest competitor in the competition, Favorin said he started playing piano at the age of 5, prompted by his grandmother. She had only been able to study music for a couple of a years as a child.

“After she couldn’t continue it, she wanted me to do this instead of her,” Favorin said, noting that she has been following him on the webcast during the competition.

While his friends and family back in Russia are supporting him online, Favorin has stopped checking his social media accounts.

“I have stopped all social connections for the period of the competition because it is a little bit difficult,” Favorin said. “Just private messages, I don’t read any other things.”

Instead, Favorin is focused solely on the Cliburn, where he will perform a quintet and, later, Prokofiev’s piano concerto No. 2 in G minor.

“I’m just very glad to be in the finals,” he said.

Kenneth Broberg

U.S. competitor Kenneth Broberg wore 2001 Cliburn gold medalist Stanislav Ioudenitch’s tuxedo in the early rounds of the Cliburn competition.

But it wasn’t for good luck

“He thought my suits weren’t nice enough,” Broberg said, noting he has studied under Ioudenitch for the past year.

Broberg said he’s been getting advice throughout the competition from Ioudenitch, who is not able to attend as he’s judging a different piano competition in Vienna.

“It’s basically remain consistent throughout the competition. It’s just bringing myself and do the best that I can,” Broberg said in an interview. “Practice. Don’t stop!”

Although Ioudenitch isn’t seeing Broberg’s Cliburn recitals, Broberg’s longtime teacher Nancy Weems, from the University of Houston, made the four-hour drive to Bass Hall to see her former student.

“I’ve studied on and off from her since I was 18 years old,” Broberg said, as she came backstage to visit him after his semifinal concerto round. “Of course, I’m sure she’ll give me advice.” 

Broberg plays Rachmaninnoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini for the concerto round of the finals.

“I’ll be wearing my tux for the finals,” Broberg said.

Coming Thursday: Rachel Cheung and Daniel Hsu

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @andreaahles