Reports emanating from members of the audience at Benjamin Grosvenor's lunchtime recital of Chopin at St Luke's the other day are utterly remarkable. My pianophile friends who were there have offered levels of superlatives that you don't hear every day -- at least, not from these guys. Words like "moved to tears", "couldn't believe my ears", "some of the greatest Chopin playing I've ever heard" and comparisons with musicians like de Pachmann, Cherkassky and even Horowitz are being liberally bandied about by those who are seriously in the know. I am kicking myself for being unable to go, but fortunately the concert is due for broadcast on R3 on 3 December. If you didn't see my interview with him from The Independent last week, here it is again.
To tide us over, I've found on Youtube three extracts from Benjamin's debut CD of selected showpieces, This and That. Here they are: Scarlatti, Moszkowski and Gershwin. I can quite understand the comparison with Golden Age playing: Benjamin has a similar mix of natural musicality, virtuoso relish, the feel for "turning" a phrase, and a sense of artistic freedom that fulfils an individual personality while nevertheless serving the composer and the work's inner structure and making them shine... This would be equally astounding playing from someone twice his age. Every time I hear him I feel I'm witnessing some kind of miracle.
There's a lot more audio on his website - extracts of recitals from the past 6 years...
If you enjoy the extracts, do buy the recording. Here's the link.
Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.
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