In 2008 a friend gave me a piano CD titled This & That. It was a fascinating recital of music by Kapustin, Albeniz and Scarlatti, played with incredible dash by a British pianist who had just turned 16. Benjamin Grosvenor has since made many public appearances, including one at the Proms, and at 19 has secured a contract with Decca. This disc is the result.
Chopin’s four Scherzi are exciting pieces, and often figure in the repertoire of young pianists. One of Argerich’s early triumphs was the Scherzo No 3, while the youthful Ashkenazy turned heads with No 4; both their recordings remain iconic. Grosvenor plays the four pieces
as dazzling études. The First seems on the verge of being rushed, yet the accuracy and dynamic detail of Grosvenor’s finger work is mind-boggling. He goes at full speed but pulls it off, also finding plenty of poetry in the lyrical sections. His Third is more lightweight than some (Pollini, for instance) and the cascades of notes decorating the central chorale could be more ethereal. This may be a function of the piano sound, which is rather bright at the top. His Nocturnes are sensitively played, though maturity will bring a greater inwardness in this music.
Ravel’s Gaspard holds no terrors for him. He is at his fluid best in Ondine. Others have created a darker atmosphere in Le Gibet (Pogorelich) and provided more attack in Scarbo (Berezovsky). This is to judge Grosvenor by the highest standards, as his brilliant pianism demands.