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Benjamin Grosvenor - the prodigy grown up
#2689037 11/12/17 07:02 PM
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Hank M Offline OP
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What happens when musical prodigies grow up? Some of them fade out. In their late teens and twenties, they find that they can no longer rely on their youthfulness to stand out from the crowd of other gifted musicians.

But then there are those like British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor. Now age 25, he is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading pianists. His Philadelphia debut recital on Friday evening, November 10, showed why he is so highly regarded.

Although his pianistic gifts were recognized at an early age, Grosvenor never considered himself a prodigy. Interviewed at the ripe old age of 18, he said, "I wasn't one of those prodigies you read about who went to the piano and could just pick out tunes. My mother tried to start me when I was five, but I couldn't be bothered. I only began practising seriously when my friends at school started to play, and I thought, 'they're not going to get better than me!'"

And he is not the boastful type. In the same interview, Grosvenor had this to say, “I'm not that talented, musically. I obviously have some kind of gift for interpreting music, but really otherwise, I'm not that talented."

Well, allow me to differ. The evidence was on display at this recital, which featured the following program:

Bach: French Suite in G Major, BWV 816
Brahms/Dean: Four Pieces, Op. 119/Hommage à Brahms
Debussy: Prelude à l’après midi d’un faune [Arranged by Leonard Borwick]
Berg: Piano Sonata, Op. 1
Ravel: Gaspard de la nuit

The recital opened with a performance of Bach that was a model of clarity and exquisite phrasing. The energetic closing Gigue was a special delight.

In a bit of creative programming, Grosvenor interspersed the four pieces of Brahms Op. 119 with three recent works collectively entitled Hommage à Brahms by the Australian composer Brett Dean. Perhaps the first of the Dean pieces (Angels’ Wings) could be considered slightly Brahmsian in that it featured an expanded keyboard of deep bass notes with a treble melodic line. As for the other two pieces, I really didn’t hear the connection. Nevertheless, apart from an exceedingly meandering rendition of the first Brahms Intermezzo (the weakest of the set), Grosvenor delivered warmly expressive performances of the other two Intermezzi and the Rhapsody.

Debussy’s Prelude à l’après midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) seems like an odd candidate for a piano transcription. The original is unique for its orchestral texture, so what’s the point of presenting it as a piano piece? Yet given the limitations of transcription, Grosvenor’s performance brought forth enough pianistic colors to make this enjoyable.

Alban Berg’s first published piece, a one-movement sonata, is written in a musical language that is largely atonal, but it has the feel of late Romanticism. Grosvenor’s performance reflected this, combining the anxiety of modernism with the passionate intensity of an earlier era.

Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit is one of the most challenging works for pianists, and perhaps because of this, one of the most popular among those with the “chops” to perform it. It’s also popular with audience members, including this one, since it is nothing less than a musical masterpiece. There’s no doubt that Grosvenor has the chops, but it was clear from this electrifying performance that he had something more—the ability to convey the grotesque and mysterious atmosphere which Ravel conjured so convincingly.

The evening concluded with one delectable encore, a Moszkowski etude.

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor - the prodigy grown up
Hank M #2689045 11/12/17 08:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Hank M
What happens when musical prodigies grow up? Some of them fade out. In their late teens and twenties, they find that they can no longer rely on their youthfulness to stand out from the crowd of other gifted musicians.

But then there are those like British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor. Now age 25, he is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading pianists. His Philadelphia debut recital on Friday evening, November 10, showed why he is so highly regarded.

Although his pianistic gifts were recognized at an early age, Grosvenor never considered himself a prodigy. Interviewed at the ripe old age of 18, he said, "I wasn't one of those prodigies you read about who went to the piano and could just pick out tunes. My mother tried to start me when I was five, but I couldn't be bothered. I only began practising seriously when my friends at school started to play, and I thought, 'they're not going to get better than me!'"

And he is not the boastful type. In the same interview, Grosvenor had this to say, “I'm not that talented, musically. I obviously have some kind of gift for interpreting music, but really otherwise, I'm not that talented."

Well, allow me to differ. The evidence was on display at this recital, which featured the following program:

Bach: French Suite in G Major, BWV 816
Brahms/Dean: Four Pieces, Op. 119/Hommage à Brahms
Debussy: Prelude à l’après midi d’un faune [Arranged by Leonard Borwick]
Berg: Piano Sonata, Op. 1
Ravel: Gaspard de la nuit

The recital opened with a performance of Bach that was a model of clarity and exquisite phrasing. The energetic closing Gigue was a special delight.

In a bit of creative programming, Grosvenor interspersed the four pieces of Brahms Op. 119 with three recent works collectively entitled Hommage à Brahms by the Australian composer Brett Dean. Perhaps the first of the Dean pieces (Angels’ Wings) could be considered slightly Brahmsian in that it featured an expanded keyboard of deep bass notes with a treble melodic line. As for the other two pieces, I really didn’t hear the connection. Nevertheless, apart from an exceedingly meandering rendition of the first Brahms Intermezzo (the weakest of the set), Grosvenor delivered warmly expressive performances of the other two Intermezzi and the Rhapsody.

Debussy’s Prelude à l’après midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) seems like an odd candidate for a piano transcription. The original is unique for its orchestral texture, so what’s the point of presenting it as a piano piece? Yet given the limitations of transcription, Grosvenor’s performance brought forth enough pianistic colors to make this enjoyable.

Alban Berg’s first published piece, a one-movement sonata, is written in a musical language that is largely atonal, but it has the feel of late Romanticism. Grosvenor’s performance reflected this, combining the anxiety of modernism with the passionate intensity of an earlier era.

Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit is one of the most challenging works for pianists, and perhaps because of this, one of the most popular among those with the “chops” to perform it. It’s also popular with audience members, including this one, since it is nothing less than a musical masterpiece. There’s no doubt that Grosvenor has the chops, but it was clear from this electrifying performance that he had something more—the ability to convey the grotesque and mysterious atmosphere which Ravel conjured so convincingly.

The evening concluded with one delectable encore, a Moszkowski etude.



I agree completely. He's a fantastic pianist. And, if memory serves, he started out on an electric keyboard!!!


J. S. Bach Well-tempered Clavier, complete preludes and fugues (with significant MIDI analysis):

https://soundcloud.com/johnlgrant

https://www.youtube.com/user/dohgrant/playlists (slightly better sound quality)



Re: Benjamin Grosvenor - the prodigy grown up
Hank M #2689052 11/12/17 09:11 PM
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I had a transcription of L'apres-midi d'une faune in a Debussy collection.. it had an orange cover. That book was quite riddled with errors, but it also had a much more playable version of that piece which made quite an impression on me.

I remember the collection also had D'un cahier d'esquisses which deserves much more play.

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor - the prodigy grown up
Hank M #2689054 11/12/17 09:38 PM
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He will be in Atlanta next weekend with the same program - but I have other commitments...

Sam

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor - the prodigy grown up
jeffreyjones #2689089 11/13/17 02:53 AM
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Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
I had a transcription of L'apres-midi d'une faune in a Debussy collection.. it had an orange cover. That book was quite riddled with errors, but it also had a much more playable version of that piece which made quite an impression on me.

I remember the collection also had D'un cahier d'esquisses which deserves much more play.


The composer's own version for 2 pianos seems quite effective based on what little of it I've glance at and what little I've heard of Argerich and Kovacevich with it.

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor - the prodigy grown up
Hank M #2689215 11/13/17 03:53 PM
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I have absolutely loved his recordings!

Re: Benjamin Grosvenor - the prodigy grown up
Hank M #2689260 11/13/17 06:29 PM
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I have a number of recordings of his and have been very impressed not only with his musicianship but of his tone as well. There’s a series on YouTube titled, “So you want to be a concert pianist”, which features him at a young age. Very enjoyable to watch. Recently I’ve discovered another great talent who is quite remarkable and heads above the typical prodigy. He’s only 15 but already has quite a number of concerto videos on YouTube. No matter how difficult there is a relaxed ease to his playing and musicianship way beyond his years. His name is Alexander Malofeev and he no doubt will be the next classical superstar.

Last edited by kbrod1; 11/14/17 02:08 AM.

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