Benjamin Grosvenor

Rhapsody in Blue

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Following the success of his first Decca release of solo piano music by Chopin, Liszt, and Ravel, Benjamin Grosvenor demonstrates his aptitude in the concerto repertoire on his second CD, Rhapsody in Blue, recorded with James Judd and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. This is a refreshing change from the usual Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninov concertos one hears from young artists eager to impress, and Grosvenor is clever enough to play not only engaging concertos by Saint-Saëns, Ravel, and Gershwin, but to toss in short bon-bons by these composers to sweeten the program. Grosvenor has sometimes described as a Romantic pianist, which suggests anything from excessive sentimentality to headstrong individualism, but this is something of an exaggeration. It is true that Grosvenor has the passion and expressive grandeur for music of the period, notably displayed in Saint-Saëns' grandiose Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, but he also possesses a modern sensibility that is ideal for the lighter textures and piquant expressions found in Ravel's effervescent Piano Concerto in G major and Gershwin's insouciant Rhapsody in Blue (performed here in the original jazz band version arranged by Ferde Grofé). Grosvenor is much more rounded in his tastes and abilities than may be apparent from reviews, but given time, his judgment in programming will be as obvious as his prodigious skills at the keyboard. Decca's reproduction is close-up and vivid, so the piano has real presence, and its volume almost eclipses the orchestra at times.

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