Benjamin Grosvenor’s playing in Chopin Piano Concertos is entirely devoid of the shallow point-scoring that sometimes afflicts young pianists
Benjamin Grosvenor Chopin Piano Concertos Decca, out now
Sometimes hype is just that; hype. But occasionally it’s true. So those who in 2004 chose an 11-year-old Essex boy as the youngest ever winner of the keyboard section of the BBC Young Musician of the Year, amid a chorus of praise, can feel proud of their foresight.
Because the now 27-year-old Benjamin Grosvenor, after yet more years of being described as the biggest thing to hit British piano playing for a long time, has finally proved it with this, his fifth Decca album.
I remember joining in cataclysmic standing ovations at London’s Royal Festival Hall in the late 1980s after recitals by the then teenage Evgeny Kissin, who recorded these two concertos in Moscow when aged only 12.
The now 27-year-old Benjamin Grosvenor (above) has finally proved his title of BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2004 with this, his fifth Decca album
Everyone predicted a glorious future for him. Kissin, now 48, has had a perfectly respectable career as a concert pianist, but wouldn’t now be on anybody’s list of future greats.
What is so special about this album, for which Grosvenor is expertly accompanied by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under their principal guest conductor, Elim Chan?
It’s the striking maturity of his playing, his impeccable technique, and especially the flair and imagination of his phrasing, which displays these old warhorses to their best advantage.
His playing is entirely devoid of the shallow point-scoring and excessive sentimentality that sometimes afflicts young pianists in these pieces.
Congratulations are also due to Elim Chan. Chopin was no orchestrator, and his immature and often dull orchestral introductions, in the past so often cut, are made truly interesting here by Chan’s own flair and imagination, which perfectly matches Grosvenor’s.
I hope Decca will pair them up again for future recordings. On this evidence, they strike real sparks off each other.