That this young pianist displays technical facility is expected ; that he also brings a distinctive sound, original conceptions , and maturity in phrasing and vision is an all too rare combination at any age. How ever many recordings of these works you may have, you must add Grosvenor's . This cd more than fulfills the expectations raised by his equally stunning debut solo cd on Decca last year.
A carefully sculpted, multi-dimensional first mov. ; suave yet whimsical scherzando second ; and a daemonic yet at times playful finale , place Grosvenor's reading of the Saint-Saens Concerto on the same heights now occupied by my reference Gilels / Kondrashin and Rubinstein / Wallenstein recordings . The Ravel gives this pianist opportunities to display his sound , at times reminding of the golden warmth of the young Cliburn, at times the silvery bell-like quality of Kapell, and , throughout , the kaleidoscopic nuances of Michelangeli. An inspired choice, Grosvenor employs the 1924 Grofe jazz-band orchestration of the Gershwin, rather than Grofe's full -orchestra version we usually hear, the result a more intimate experience for listener and players alike. This "Rhapsody " is alive, exciting, in the moment, Gershwin himself "visible" at a piano in his favorite speakeasy.
Both pianist and orchestra here bring a freshness and vitality to these works that would have a listener wondering if the performances were live. The pianist is aided by a shared vision with the conductor , and wonderful playing in the orchestra, particularly solo parts in the "Rhapsody." I dont believe this combination of concerti has shared the same recording before, imaginative programming here.
Another unique feature of this cd are the 3 encores. Grosvenor effortlessly negotiates the complex chiffon filagree of Godowsky's transcription of "The Swan" ; gently unfolds the brief , but breath-taking, simplicity of Ravel's rarely-heard 1913 " Prelude" ; and is at one with Grainger's touches to Gershwin's heart-tugging " Love Walked In." Clearly, Grosvenor is a pianist embracing the music behind the written notes , music which takes wing unforced from his piano.
A comparison of what Grosvenor achieves in the contrasting middle movs. of the Saint-Saens and Ravel concertos , and between " The Swan" and "Prelude" ; and the connections he forges among the Classical encores and the Gershwin song ; all give telling measures of the remarkable range of the talent and art of this pianist. As this cd , and his earlier two cd's , make clear , Grosvenor stands out in a crowded field . An artist to follow. Highly recommended.
Allow me to add an aside : I am an American who had to purchase this cd from the UK because of a decision , apparently by Decca , not to release the cd on Amazon-US until Feb. 5, 2013 !? Despite great interest in Grosvenor's playing among pianophiles on my side of the pond ; Despite a very well received performance of this very Saint-Seans concerto in Minneapolis just a couple months before 2012 Proms ?! Inexplicable delay if the Amazon - US site is correct about a 2013 release.