Benjamin Grosvenor revitalizes Chopin

Benjamin Grosvenor: “The annoying thing about these times is that musicians are exposed to a lot of fixed traditions and views. I have to be aware of history, but it needs to be translated to the present”. He proves that this is possible with his recording of Chopin’s piano concertos.

The concertos are extremely popular: the catalogue lists dozens (if not more) of good and even excellent performances. Is there anything still lacking? Evidently. The young Englishman, who won the BBC Young Musician Competition in 2004 at the age of 11, shows that he is not very interested in technique as such- there is nothing wrong with that  –  but all the more in the story behind the notes.

I don’t know exactly how he does it, but his playing makes me feel as if I am hearing the concerts for the first time, while I actually know them by heart. He does not shy away from grand gestures, thank goodness!, and yet his playing has a chamber music-like quality. It is as if he feels- intuitively? – that even the most romantic music may be benefited by holding back, even if only now and then. I read somewhere that he shared his bedroom with his little brother with Down’s syndrome for a long time: could this make him extra sensitive? Pure speculation, of course.

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra under the baton of Elim Chan has a congenial feel for the pianist’s interpretation: together they form a unity that is watertight. The recording sounds excellent.

Piano Concertos
Benjamin Grosvenor (piano)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Elim Chan
Decca 485036

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