Grosvenor displays intense virtuosity and poetic introspection for Friends of Chamber Music

By Lawrence Budmen

Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor performed Tuesday night at Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest.

Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor performed Tuesday night at Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest.

From the stage of Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest, the chorus of Druids called for war and the tragic lovers Norma and Pollione spent their last moments together before facing the flames of the funeral pyre. Yet there were no singers in sight.

Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor concluded his recital for Friends of Chamber Music with Franz Liszt’s showpiece Réminiscences de Norma and exhibited the dexterity and big-boned technique to conquer Liszt’s keyboard spanning, fistfuls of notes. Grosvenor’s virtuosic display was not mere pianistic pounding but a passionate, intense traversal of Bellini’s opera, its melodies and romantic drama wrapped in Liszt’s embellishments.

The young British pianist seems to thrive on complex, technically demanding scores. He preceded the Liszt-Bellini pastiche with works by Prokofiev and Janácek. A series of vignettes from Prokofiev’s Visions Fugitives veered from glints of impressionism to brooding angst with a Russian accent and jaunty off-kilter dances. Grosvenor was fully equal to both the rhapsodic musings and devilish, fast-paced phrases that Prokofiev inserted in these cameos.

Janácek’s Sonata 1, X. 1905 is a memorial to a young carpenter who was bayoneted to death during demonstrations in support of a Czech university in Brno. “Foreboding,” the first of the sonata’s two movements, opens with a Czech-inflected theme. Grosvenor captured the melody’s deep sadness and pathos and expertly calibrated the sudden bursts of violent dissonance. A brief, terse motif repeated at varied volumes comprises “Death,” the final movement. Grosvenor conveyed the tragic finality at the conclusion with powerful impact.

The program’s first half comprised two works by Robert Schumann, displaying a different side of the talented pianist. Sensitivity of touch and a strong affinity for flow of rhythm and pulse marked Grosvenor’s reading of Blumenstück.

He launched into Kreisleriana at a furious tempo but his varied dynamic palette encompassed Schumann’s wild mood swings between the drama and demonic. While Grosvenor could produce thunderous fortissimos, he held that power in check, allowing the few big climactic moments greater effectiveness.

The pianist’s poetic introspection in the more reflective sections was particularly impressive. At times Grosvenor encompassed the grandeur beneath Schumann’s melodic paths with Chopinesque elegance. Despite a manic tempo, the inner lines of “Sehr rasch” were unusually clean and Grosvenor’s clipped phrasing in the concluding section enlivened the music’s playful tone. This was a young pianist’s view of Schumann and the performance was an utterly convincing interpretation of a keyboard masterpiece.

Friends of Chamber Music presents the Borodin  Quartet playing Myaskovsky’s String Quartet No. 13, Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 13 and Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2, 8 p.m. March 19 at Coral Gables Congregational Church.

Posted in Performances

Leave a Comment

Wed Mar 6, 2019
at 2:11 pm
No Comments