Tuesday 9 September 2014

Benjamin Grosvenor’s latest release from Decca, entitled Dances, brings together works by Bach, Chopin, Scriabin, Granados, Schulz-Evler, Albeniz and Gould in a remarkably fine recital that should not be missed

It cannot be doubted that Benjamin Grosvenor www.benjamingrosvenor.co.uk is one of the finest young pianists anywhere in the world today.

Born in 1992, Grosvenor began playing the piano aged 6 going on to study at the Royal Academy of Music, where he was awarded the The Queen’s Commendation for Excellence and has had lessons with Christopher Elton, Leif Ove Andsnes, Stephen Hough, and Arnaldo Cohen.

Grosvenor first came to prominence as the outstanding winner of the Keyboard Final of the 2004 BBC Young Musician Competition at the age of eleven. Since then, he has built an international reputation performing with orchestras around the world, working with such conductors as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Jiří Bělohlávek, Semyon Bychkov, Andrey Boreyko and Vladimir Jurowski.

He was aged just nineteen when he performed with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the First Night of the 2011 BBC Proms. He returned to the BBC Proms in 2012, performing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Charles Dutoit http://theclassicalreviewer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/subtle-saint-saens-from-benjamin.html and this year performing with Gianandrea Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra http://theclassicalreviewer.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/tonights-prom-brought-beautifully.html

In 2011 Grosvenor signed to Decca Classics www.deccaclassics.com and in doing so became not only the youngest British musician ever to sign to the label, but the first British pianist to sign to the label in almost 60 years.

His three previous recordings for Decca www.deccaclassics.com have received enthusiastic reviews. His latest release from Decca is entitled Dances and brings together works by Bach, Chopin, Scriabin, Granados, Schulz-Evler, Albeniz and Gould, showing a variety of dance forms to remarkable effect.

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Bach’s Partita No.4 in D major, BWV 828 is striking right from the opening chord Ouverture, beautifully nuanced and shaped. Grosvenor is alive to every dynamic and knows just how to lift the music from the page. There is a beautifully paced Allemande, exquisite in its gentle flow with lovely phrasing and a Courante that shows his beautifully light touch, where he keeps up a fine tempo. The varying rhythms of the Aria are equally finely done. Grosvenor’s thoughtful, perfectly paced and phrased Sarabande precedes a beautifully judged and mesmerising Menuet and a crisp flowing Gigue, full of clarity. This is very fine Bach indeed.

His performance of Chopin’s Andante spianato et Grande polonaise brillante, Op 22 brings delicacy and hushed restraint whilst keeping a forward movement in the Andante spianato. With the Grande Polonaise, again it is Grosvenor’s fine control of dynamics and phrasing as well as a crystal clear clarity that makes this such a fine performance. He is muscular when the music requires it with his superb technique shown to the full in the coda.

All the same qualities appear when he brings us Chopin’s Polonaise in F# Minor, Op 44 to which he brings power, breadth and subtlety with some fine control in the more poetical moments.

Benjamin Grosvenor then turns to Scriabin, giving us three of the 10 Mazurkas, Op 3. It is lovely how Grosvenor handles the little rhythmic oddities of the Mazurka No.6 in C sharp minor with such fine phrasing. He again puts a lovely lift in the rhythms of No. 5 in E major, with more lovely subtleties. An especially fine performance. Finally there is the particularly Chopinesque Marzurka No. 9 in G sharp minor, beautifully controlled, rising so naturally to its central climax with exquisite moments either side.
He catches Scriabin’s freer harmonies of his later Valse in A flat Major. Op 38 perfectly with his silken, light touch bringing some lovely moments.

Granados’ 8 Valses poéticos bring many changes of mood and rhythm with a wonderfully direct Preludio: Vivace Molto, a Melodioso that is beautifully phrased with fine rhythms, light, transparent Tempo de Vals noble, catching its fleeting moments and showing his subtle ability to change mood in Tempo de Vals lento.

There is a rhythmically well sprung Allegro humoristico, a beautifully phrased Allegretto, a Quasi ad libitum that brings a breadth of poetic charm and a wonderfully light and dexterous Vivo before the Presto brings us full circle to the theme of the Melodioso.

The Polish born, Adolf Schulz-Evler (1852-1905) will be unknown to most people yet his Arabesques on Johann Strauss’ ‘By the Beautiful Blue Danube’ is an attractive work. In Benjamin Grosvenor’s hands it is simply terrific, as this pianist brings all his lightness of touch, fine rubato, lovely phrasing, and wonderfully rhythmic qualities to these variations on Strauss’ famous waltz.

Leopold Godowsky’s arrangement of Albeniz’s Tango: España, Op 165, No. 2 wears its virtuosity lightly in Grosvenor’s fine performance. To end we have Morton Gould’s Boogie Woogie Etude where Grosvenor really fuses Boogie-Woogie with the nature of a serious study, with playing that provides a terrific conclusion to this disc.

I cannot think of a more satisfying recital from one of our finest young pianists. With an especially fine recording made at Potten Hall, Suffolk, England and informative booklet notes this new release should not be missed.

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