Review of Benjamin Grosvenor’s piano recital

by James Bash James Bash writes articles for a variety of publications, including magazines such as Opera America, Open Spaces, Opera, MUSO, International Arts Manager, American Record Guide, Symphony, Opera Canada, and PSU Magazine. The newspapers include Crosscut, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Oregonian, The Columbian, The Portland Tribune, The Register-Guard, and Willamette Week. James has also written a number of articles for the Oregon Arts Commission and contributed articles to the 2nd edition of the Grove Dictionary of American Music.James was a fellow to the 2008 NEA Journalism Institute for Classical Music and Opera. He is a member of the Music Critics Association of North America ( and lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, Kathy. 24.03.2015

Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor unleashed the subtlest of dynamics and blessed them with just the right tempi during his performance on March 9 at Lincoln Hall at part of Portland Piano International’s recital series. His meticulous artistry brought out the essence of each piece on the program in an intimate way that made listening to the music a life-enhancing experience.

Playing works by Chopin, Ravel, Granados, and Scriabin, plus an arrangement by Adolf Schulz-Evler of Johann Strauss’s “Blue Danube,” Grosvenor, a 22-year-old phenomenon from England, constantly probed each phrase of each piece yet kept everything within the arc of the piece. He found sounds that shifted from soft to softer to softest with all sorts of gradations in between. His mezzo-fortes to double fortes were also impressive in their variety.

In the picture Benjamin Grosvenor by

Coupling artistry with flawless technique, Grosvenor’s playing of Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 and Ballade No. 3 exposed new tonal colors – even to those of us who have heard those pieces countless times. The same could be said for his interpretation of two Mazurkas (F minor, Op. 63, No. 2 and C-sharp minor, Op. 30, No. 4) and of the Barcarolle in F-sharp Major, Op. 60 as well as the “Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante.”

In his performance of Ravel’s “Valses nobles et sentimentales,” Grosvenor explored all sorts of nuances, including excursions that were articulate yet playful and others that featured lovely soft suspensions. Grosvenor created a series of natural transitions from serious to lighthearted in Granados’ “Valses poeticos,” and left an indelible impression with an immaculate blitz of notes at the end of the piece. His playing of Scriabin’s “Valse” was wonderfully explosive and flamboyant. Taking it up a notch, he concluded his program with Evler’s arrangement, the “Blue Danube,” which left effervescent sounds swirling towards the ceiling of Lincoln Hall.

The audience erupted with its second standing ovation (the first one happened before intermission), cheers and bravos, which brought Grosvenor back to the piano for two encores. The first was a soothingly light piece, “The Fountain and the Clock” by the Spanish composer Fredrico Mompou. The second was all virtuosic fireworks, a “Concert Etude” by Ernst von Dohnanyi. Both were marvelously played by Grosvenor.

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