WORKS: Chopin: Scherzos Nos 1-4; Nocturnes Nos 5 & 19, Op. 15 No. 2 & Op. 72 No. 1; Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. Posth; Liszt: My Joys, Op. 74 No. 12; The Maiden’s Wish, Op. 74 No. 1; En rêve, Nocturne, S207; Ravel: Gaspard de la nuit
PERFORMER: Benjamin Grosvenor (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Decca 478 3206
There’s a long-running moan about the anonymity, the sheer assembly-line sameness, of young pianists these days. But individuality has never been the norm. Nor can true originality be faked. Ironically, one of the most individual things about this stunning debut by Benjamin Grosvenor is his pervasive sense of balance and his unerring blend of Classical restraint and Romantic ardour. Nowhere is this more striking than in the First and Third Chopin Scherzos, whose dark anguish coexists with, and complements, a lightness of texture and crystalline articulation.
At no point, however, do the refinement and clarity of the pianism compromise the intensity of the drama. He is a virtuoso who declines the mantle of the virtuoso, every gesture being put exclusively and exhilaratingly at the service of the music. He is devoted without being devout. Grosvenor’s playing exudes joy and spontaneity, seeming to release rather than to interpret the music. He is also a master of mood and atmosphere, with the ability to coordinate colour and structure to a rare degree. Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit consistently reveals his exceptional versatility and resourcefulness in this regard, and with him the music always moves, right down to the swaying of the corpse on Ravel’s gibbet. At 19, Grosvenor is already a pianist of uncommon distinction. Jeremy Siepmann