Benjamin Grosvenor = “This & That” – Piano music by Kapustin, Scarlatti, Albeniz, Moszkowski, Chopin, Brahms, Strauss, Gershwin [www.bowers-wilkins.co.uk] BENJAMIN GROSVENOR = Ben at 10: Piano Classics – Shellwood SWCD31 [www.shellwood.co.uk]

by | Feb 15, 2010 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Benjamin Grosvenor = “This & That” – Piano music by Kapustin, Scarlatti, Albeniz, Moszkowski, Chopin, Brahms, Strauss, Gershwin [https://www.bowers-wilkins.co.uk/" or www.benjamingrosvenor.co.uk], 62:50 *****:

The young Ben at eleven, was the winner of the piano final in the 2004 BBC Young Musician of the Year competition. Here we have Ben at just sixteen, recorded, except for the last track, in really splendid sound for Bowers and Wilkins at the Menuhin Hall in a wide-ranging programme.

Beautifully presented Scarlatti sonatas show the pianist’s technique has been well honed over the last few years – the evenness of tone is breathtaking. The Chopin Nocturnes have just that right amount of natural give and take. The three selections from Albéniz’s Iberia are powerful in execution, though Grosvenor never forces his instrument’s tone. Moskowski’s Caprice Espagnol is suitably unbuttoned.

The playing in Kapustin’s fingerbustin’ studies yields nothing to either Hamelin nor Osborne (both on Hyperion), and the two Cziffra arrangements are perfect in their combination of virtuosity and humour.  Gershwin’s “Love walked in” in Percy Grainger’s arrangement makes a delicious finale, this last recorded courtesy of EMI who have helped to nurture Grosvenor these last few years. He appears in EMI’s bumper box of Chopin (16 CDs: 9671172) – let’s hope his tracks are issued separately, too.

Ben Grosvenor has not suffered from over-exposure and exhausting world tours unlike some other highly gifted youngsters. I have a feeling he is going to have a long and illustrious career. Certainly, he is highly enough thought of to stand in at very short notice today, playing at the Wigmore Hall and broadcast live moments ago. On the programme was some Kapustin, Chopin and Liszt’s B-minor Sonata.  This last, quite some virtuoso showpiece, was a rollercoaster ride of spontaneity, musical poetry and superb technique. There’s much to look forward to from this young pianist!

TrackList:
1.  Nikolai Kapustin:  Concert Study No.3 – Toccatina
2.  Nikolai Kapustin:  Concert Study No.6 – Pastoral
3.  Nikolai Kapustin:  Concert Study No.7 – Intermezzo
4.  Domenico Scarlatti:  Sonata in F minor, K.466
5.  Domenico Scarlatti:  Sonata in D minor, K.141
6.  Isaac Albéniz:  Iberia Book 1 – Evocation
7.  Isaac Albéniz:  Iberia Book 1 – El Puerto
8.  Isaac Albéniz:  Iberia Book 1 – Fête-dieu à Seville
9.  Moritz Moszkowski: Caprice Espagnol
10. Frédéric Chopin: Nocturne in D flat, Op 27 No.2
11. Frédéric Chopin: Nocturne in E flat, Op 55 No.2
12. Johannes Brahms/Cziffra:  Hungarian Dance No.5
13. Johann Strauss II/Cziffra:  Tritsch-Tratsch Polka
14. Gershwin/Grainger:  Love Walked In

BENJAMIN GROSVENOR = Ben at 10: Piano Classics – Shellwood SWCD31 [www.shellwood.co.uk]; 59:50

Here is a chance to hear the very young Ben at 10. Recorded in two two-hour sessions in 2002, the young pianist gives more than just an inkling of what was to come. The very small hands are not defeated by some large stretches, and already that evenness of tone and command of the keys are in evidence.

On the whole, and not unexpectedly, the lighter fare comes off best. Hough’s “Musical Jewellery Box” is a delight, as is Rachmaninov’s “Polichinelle”. The four pieces by Billy Mayerl I know from bitter experience are far more difficult to put across than they sound, let alone seem from the score, and Ben’s success with these at any age is noteworthy.

And this CD also has a piece of Gershwin, “I got rhythm”, an understatement to be sure!  This set of very early recordings by Benjamin Grosvenor is doubly interesting showing as it does in comparison his maturing and developing into a fully-fledged grown-up player, yet providing big hints about what was to come.

TrackList:

1   Impromptu in E flat Op.90 No.2 Schubert 
2   Polichinelle Rachmaninov 
3   Nocturne in C# minor Op. post. Chopin 
4   Sonata in E flat Hob 49 1st movement Allegro Haydn
5   Musical Jewellery Box Hough
6   Sonata Op.13 3rd movement Rondo Allegro Beethoven 
7   Nocturne in D flat Op.27 Chopin 
8   Sonata Op.10 No.2 3rd movement Presto Beethoven 
9    Waltz Op.64 No.2 in C# minor Chopin 
10  Tarantelle Op.77 No.6 Moszkowski 
11  Old Vienna Godowsky
12  Fantasie Impromptu in C# minor Chopin 
13  Arabesque No.1 Debussy 
14  I Got Rhythm Gershwin 
15  Fireside Fusiliers Mayerl 
16  Bats In The Belfry Mayerl 
17  Study No.6 Mayerl 
18  Marigold Mayerl 

— Peter Joelson

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