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Review: Benjamin Grosvenor at Birmingham Town Hall

Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor had a delicate touch and precision in his playing

Benjamin Grosvenor

The first half of this recital belonged to the baroque: one piece from the era itself and two 19th century tributes to its musical colossus, J.S. Bach.

In Rameau’s Gavotte and Variations in A minor Grosvenor trod a judicious middle path neither pretending that the modern grand was a harpsichord nor over-pedalling and blurring Rameau’s clean and sharp lines – everything was well articulated and crisply played.

Busoni’s virtuoso transcription of the Chaconne from Bach’s Partita No. 2 for solo violin is an astonishing realization in many ways yet still traduces the original’s intimacy and inwardness – rather like hearing a Hamlet soliloquy hammered out in the style of Henry V’s St Crispin’s Day speech.

Grosvenor was able to meet its formidable demands with both a delicate touch and ample weight and sonority for its many declamatory outbursts.

In Franck’s Prelude, Chorale and Fugue Grosvenor captured the work’s dual nature – a combination of Bachian austerity and slightly over-ripe incense-laden whiffs of Parsifal.

Grosvenor has a real feel for the sound world of Granados’ Goyescas, its colourful tonal palette and improvisatory rhythmic feel, playing The Maiden and the Nightingale, and its shadowy sequel Love and Death, with poignancy and wit (a cheeky ironic nightingale) and high good humour in The Straw Man.

A pity he didn’t play the full set rather than some lacklustre Chopin: an occasionally turgid Barcarolle; two decent but slightly dull mazurkas and the third Ballade the plodding opening of which totally missed its rolling gait, jack-the-lad swagger and insouciance.

 

 

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