After his recital debut at the Frick Collection, Benjamin Grosvenor has received an excellent review from the New York Times:
“Benjamin Grosvenor, the 19-year-old English pianist who made his New York recital debut at the Frick Collection on Sunday afternoon, seemed the picture of casualness and humility when he walked onstage fresh faced, tieless and dressed in black. But no one who has heard his recent recording of Chopin, Liszt and Ravel works, (from Decca) would have been surprised by the contrast between his easygoing appearance and the ferocity of his sound. At the Frick, as on the recording, he proved a formidable technician and a thoughtful, coolly assured interpreter.
Mr Grosvenor was at his most persuasive in the first half of the program, which began with a sharply chiselled account of Bach’s Keyboard Partita No.4 in D. Mr Grosvenor used the richness of the piano’s palette unapologetically but demonstrated a command of period style in his crisply executed ornamentation and his characterization of individual dance movements: an aristocratic Allemande, for example, and a transparent Courante.
The attention to definition and clarity that he brought to Bach also enlivened Chopin’s Sonata No. 3 in B minor. But the more striking elements of his intensely focused reading were the singing tone he brought to the Allegro maestoso and the broad-boned Largo, and the balance of tempestuousness and control he applied to the scherzo and the finale.
The Russian and French works in the second half of the program showed another side of Mr Grosvenor. Scriabin’s Sonata No. 2 in G sharp minor, a pair of short pieces by Rachmaninoff (Lilacs and Polka de W.R) and Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit all demand, in different measures, a play of subtle hues and changeable, often hazy textures: qualities that are in some ways the inverse of those Mr. Grosvenor demonstrated in the Bach and Chopin.
He seemed to resist this shift at first, and his rendering of the Scriabin pointed up the work’s connection (in thematic shape and, to an extent, harmonic turns) to the Chopin more vividly than the ways Scriabin headed off on his own path. But Mr Grosvenor loosened up considerably in the Rachmaninoff. And in the Ravel he put his penchant for precise articulation at the service of the music’s painterly qualities, bringing a crystalline shimmer to Ondine, evoking the distant, tolling bells and the uneven sway of the gallows in Le Gibet and closing the set with the blend of impishness and sheer virtuosity necessary to bring Scarbo to life.
As encores Mr Grosvenor gave a spirited, bluesy performance of Morton Gould’s Boogie Woogie Étude and a gently ruminative account of Abram Chasins’s Prelude No. 14.”
Allan Kozinn, 21 March 2012