A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

June 5: Day five of the semifinal round of the Cliburn International Piano Competition: Leonardo Pierdomenico and Kenneth Broberg

This last day of the semifinal round saw recitals by the two last competitors: 24-year-old Leonardo Pierdomenico from Italy and 23-year-old Kenneth Broberg from the United States.

Leonardo Pierdomenico

Pierdomenico was up first and started his recital with a very warm reading of the Sonata No. 4 in E-flat major, op. 7, by Beethoven. It is said that Beethoven was in love when he wrote this sonata, and Pierdomenico performed it with his own love — for the sonata and for Beethoven. Instead of selecting a more well-known Beethoven sonata to impress the jury, Pierdomenico picked a simpler one where he could display his artistry. It might not have wowed like one of Beethoven’s more challenging sonatas, but it was very effective.

Next, Pierdomenico performed the four Ballades by Chopin. He deftly navigated the emotional terrain of the Ballades, from the stormy No. 1 in G Minor, op. 23, and No. 2 in F major, op. 38, to the sweet sentimentality of the No. 3 in A-flat Major, op. 47, with its rousing conclusion, and the epic concluding Ballade No. 4 in F minor, op. 52. He started out strong, and with each Ballade became stronger. The performance was totally engrossing as he dug deep into Chopin’s emotional soul.

Unfortunately, by selecting the Chopin Ballades, Pierdomenico chose some of the most popular and most-often played works in the repertoire, and it will be difficult for the jury not to compare his interpretations with those of some of the other Cliburn competitors. That could hurt or help him depending on which performances they use for comparison.

Kenneth Broberg

Kenneth Broberg performed two works beginning with the four Impromptus, D. 899, op. 90, by Schubert and ending with the Sonata in B Minor by Liszt.

Broberg’s Schubert was technically excellent, but a little heavy-handed. As we’ve said, it’s all a matter of interpretation and personal preference. Thus, if you like your Schubert more Beethovenesque, then Broberg’s version was great. If you prefer simpler, more singing-like playing, then this performance may not be your cup of tea. Still, he steered through the dynamic ranges with ease and delivered an engaging performance.

Speaking of heavy-handed, while it may not be appropriate for Schubert, it is very appropriate for Liszt, and Broberg started out with a Lisztian bang. His feverish playing with flying octaves set us up for the first appearance of the melody. He then dropped it down to the level of his Schubert Impromptus, which is much more effective with the Liszt. His dynamic control was impeccable. His intermittent humming was not only not disturbing, but suggested a deep level of involvement with the music. He drew the audience in and didn’t let go until the last quiet note.  Liszt wrote symphonies for the piano; Broberg’s interpretation was symphonic in tone, color and sound. What a way to conclude not only his recital, but the entire solo part of the competition.

Partly because it was the last solo performance, partly because Broberg is only one of two Americans left and mostly because he delivered a career-defining performance with his Liszt, the audience cheered him on stage four times!

All that is remaining before the jury decides which six will move on to the final round are the final four Mozart concertos, which will be performed tonight.

—Henry Schlinger, Culture Spot LA

Visit www.cliburn.org.