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Chopin: Piano Concertos by Benjamin Grosvenor

Benjamin Grosvenor (piano); Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Elim Chan (Decca)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
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Chopin
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11; Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21
Benjamin Grosvenor (piano); Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Elim Chan
Decca 485 0365   69.43 mins

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Probably the most common concerto pairing in recorded history, Chopin‘s two piano concertos might have been made to fill a disc. Any newcomer to this crowded field thus has to justify their place alongside many of the starriest pianists, and it is a challenge that Benjamin Grosvenor meets bravely in his latest Decca release. Surely the most successful British pianist of his generation, and uncommonly introspective too, Grosvenor takes a slightly old-fashioned approach that works both in his favour and disfavour here. With playing can be quite big-boned, he occasionally sacrifices the elegance of this music on the altar of the modern concert grand, yet he has already lived with these works for long enough to strike a balance between thoughtfulness and youthful spontaneity – this music from early in Chopin’s output contains so many features that were to remain characteristic of the composer’s output.

In performances that underline how different the two works are, Grosvenor is most successful of all in the second and third movements of the E minor concerto, where he captures the music’s dreamy introspection and brilliant lightness. The deeper lyrical beauty of the F minor concerto – full of subtler interpretative challenges – can seem a little lost on everyone here, where an all-purpose style suggests less feeling for the soul of the work and the sound that 19th-century instruments would have made. Still, Elim Chan and the RSNO offer solid support. Grosvenor fans need not hesitate, and others will find plenty to relish if their shelves are not already full with the greatest Chopin pianists.

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John Allison