on 18 August 2012
I received my CD from Amazon on the day I went to hear Benjamin Grosvenor live at the proms. Well. This was lovely and not just 'chandellier music'. You hear all the notes. He keeps to time with no hint of narcissism. This man loves music, and music making comes naturally to him. I have about 8 different recordings of the Saint-Saens 2, and this is my favourite. James Judd and the RLPO aren't just accompanists, especially in the Gershwin, which comes off spectacularly. Absolutely brilliant. Buy and enjoy.
on 14 October 2012
Many reviews, whether online or elsewhere in the media, liken the Grosvenor touch to great pianists of the past, the reason for which seems to be that he has developed a personal style, rather than merely conform to the stereotypical convention of today, where personality is misconstrued with idiosyncracy. For that much, I take my hat off to this man, yet there is no sense of idiosyncracy in anything on this CD.
The Saint-Saens and Gershwin Rhapsody come off best and are fit to take their place alongside any performance or recording, past or present. Each is played with flair and imagination. There is also excellent support from the orchestra and conductor. My 'four-star' rating arises from the Ravel which is a slight disappointment, especially in the slow movement. The outer movements contain plenty of panache and interesting turns of phrase, but the adagio assai would benefit from a little less 'thinking' and a touch more 'inspiration'. Just occasionally, it sounds self-conscious and gives the allusion of slowing down. The concentration is apt to drift as a consequence, but it is possible play this music at a slower tempo, and avoid this. I am reminded how much I enjoy Alicia de Larrocha, Jean-Pilippe Collard, Martha Argerich and Cecile Ousset in this movement/concerto.
That said, I must emphasise that this point does not diminish my esteem for the disc as a whole or the pianist. I do, however, hope I shall hear Mr. Grosvenor play this work after he has lived another twenty years. This ultra-reflective music is not typical 'jeune-homme' music and it is important to remember that the afore-mentioned pianists, although exceedingly great, were at least thirty years Benjamin Grosvenor's senior when their recordings were made.
In a nutshell, there is much to enjoy and admire here. My only caveat is that if the slow movement of the Ravel Concerto in G is the most vital track in your personal search criteria, as it is mine, this reading will provide ALMOST all your requirements.
on 29 August 2012
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.
on 2 October 2012
I purchased this disc for "Rhapsody in Blue", which I found a sheer delight, beautifully played. I did not know the other items on this disc, but having now heard them, I am thrilled with the whole recording, which has also recceived the full approval to my musical friends.
on 10 December 2012
Absolutely fabulous performance of the Rhapsody, with all the pizazz of Gershwin's own piano roll. The jazz band orchestration is, to my mind, much more fun than the orchestral version. Eleven out of ten