Holy cow! An expression of surprise which is mostly used in the United States, Canada, Australia and England—and a euphemism for “Holy Christ,” according to Wikipedia.
And that’s what my friend, Karl Bachman, said to me upon hearing the last note of Kenny Broberg‘s piano recital last night in Orvis Auditorium at the University of Hawaii. Broberg, 23 years old, won the silver medal at the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition that showed “an imaginative shaping of themes, revelation of inner voices, and an unfailing sense of momentum” according to Texas Classical Review.
Oh, I wasn’t planning on going to a piano recital last night, but my Maui organist friend, Clay Logue, texted me the night before: … you must go to pianist Kenneth Broberg’s concert at Orvis on Saturday. Broberg is the finest and most impressive pianist I’ve ever heard. His concert at the MACC (Maui Arts and Cultural Center) tonight left us all in awe and amazement. Please tell your pianist friends to not miss this concert!
I wrote back that all my friends would be at church at the Easter Vigil, and Clay answered: Jesus would want them to miss Vigil and go to this concert. Trust me.
Well, with that in mind, I went to the concert and was pleasantly surprised to find organist colleague Karl Bachman and his friend Guo Ying in the audience. Broberg opened the concert with a transcription of an organ piece, “Prelude, Fugue et Variation” by César Franck, a piece I’ve played many times. It sure sounds a lot harder to play on the piano, with no bass pedals and the left hand crossing over the right a bunch! I also enjoyed his Bach “Toccata in C minor, BWV 911,” a note-perfect performance which he ended by promptly standing up! That was a cue for us to applaud—which by the way, at two recent Hawaii Symphony Orchestra performances, the audience was not familiar with the works and no one applauded until the conductor turned around and motioned that it was the end of the piece!
To say that Broberg’s technique was phenomenal is an understatement. The other two pieces on the program, Nikolai Medtner’s “Sonata in E minor” and Samuel Barber’s “Sonata for Piano, op. 26” had great splashes of sound, an incredible number of notes and a bunch of dissonances—and to my great relief, Broberg played Debussy’s “Golliwogg’s Cakewalk” for an encore.
In the newspaper, I read Steven Mark’s Star-Advertiser interview with Broberg in which he revealed that he was the first musician in his family. His parents had received a piano as a gift but it never got played until Broberg started lessons at age six. They also discovered he had perfect pitch (like me!) to which he remarked, “I know what the note is, and I know what key the piece is in all the time,” allowing him to grasp the harmonic structure of a piece immediately. “I don’t know life without it.”
Perfect pitch or not, last night’s concert was a huge program with zillions of notes—it’s no wonder he medaled at the Van Cliburn competition!
If you want to hear a demonstration of a kid with perfect pitch, watch this YouTube video: