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Singapore International Piano Festival 2013: Benjamin Grosvenor

June 26, 2013

BenjaminGrosvenor1Event: Benjamin Grosvenor (as part of the Singapore International Piano Festival 2013: “Music & Movement”)
Venue: SOTA Concert Hall
Date: 22nd June 2013

BACH Partita No. 4 in D, BWV828
CHOPIN Polonaise in F-sharp minor, Op. 44
CHOPIN Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise, Op. 22
SCRIABIN Mazurkas Op. 3 Nos. 3, 4, 6, 1, 9
SCRIABIN Valse Op. 38
GRANADOS Valses Poéticos
SCHULZ-EVLER “Arabesques” Variations on the Blue Danube Waltz

Shine Bright Like A Diamond

It’s hard to recall the last time such a precocious pianistic talent gave a highly-anticipated full-length recital here in Singapore, but if there was a must-catch performance during this year’s Piano Fest, then the Benjamin Grosvenor one was definitely it.

Sadly, the barely 70%-filled SOTA Concert Hall didn’t seem to fully support the above assertion, although the significance of the moment at hand was hardly lost on the fortunate ones who were all there to witness the coming of age of what could be one of the most dazzling emerging pianists in recent memory.

The moment Benjamin Grosvenor – all 20 years and 11 months worth of him – walked out on stage and towards the piano, it was apparent that this was a young man who seemed perhaps a little rough around the edges, as if he was not fully comfortable with being cast under the harsh glare of the spotlight just yet.

However, the moment he launched into the crisp, delicate opening notes of Bach’s Partita No. 4, all doubts about his abilities vanished in the blink of an eye.

It was clear from the onset that this was going to be a special performance from a very special talent indeed.

The Chopin Polonaise in F-sharp minor presented the first real finger workout of the evening, and Grosvenor handled the blazing opening octaves with incredible ease and dexterity.

The Andante Spianato which preceded the Grande Polonaise next was, for me, the true highlight of the evening.

Grosvenor proved he possessed as much lyrical ability as he did virtuosic talent, and I am hard pressed to recall the last time I had my breath taken away from me while sitting inside a concert hall.

Perhaps the climax of the evening was saved for right till the end as an explosive finale of sorts, with the Schulz-Evler take on the popular Blue Danube melody by Johann Strauss.

Schulz-Evler was a virtuoso pianist, and this particular piece could perhaps be described as “pianistic pyrotechnics wrapped thickly over a hint of the Blue Danube theme”.

It was a complete riot of colours and textures, and although the beloved motif could occasionally be deciphered, the majority of the piece was just a wild and exhilarating roller-coaster ride, all of which Grosvenor handled with complete mastery and control, which inevitably drew a thunderous response from the audience in the end.

He went on to oblige the audience with three encore pieces without much resistance, the last of which was the Boogie Woogie Etude by Morton Gould which he had also previously played at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall.

It was obvious to all that we were in the presence of a truly remarkable talent.

The mind boggles at how much Grosvenor has to offer given another five to seven years to develop his already immeasurable gifts.

But as for now, one can’t help but savour the memories of the work of arguably one of the most exciting young pianists in the classical world today.

Benjamin Grosvenor may only turn 21 next month, but in artistic terms he’s long since come into his own.

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