Classic 107 - Winnipeg CAN Host Chris Wolf had the opportunity to Zoom chat with world renowned pianist Benjamin Grosvenor about his latest recording. A recoding featuring the music of Liszt.
The English pianist Benjamin Grosvenor is one of today's most sought after pianists. Ever since winning the BBC Young Musician of the Year at the age of 12 in 2004, Grosvenor has developed an International career that has seen him perform with the world's top Orchestras and make several award winning recordings on the Decca Record label.
Benjamin Grosvenor's latest release that comes today, February 19, 2021 features the music of Liszt…and not just any Liszt! Grosvenor has recorded some of the most difficult and monumental music that Liszt ever composed:
Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178
Berceuse, S. 174ii
Tre sonetti di Petrarca, S. 161/4-6
Réminiscences de Norma, S. 394 (after Bellini)
Ave Maria, S. 558/12 (after Schubert)
When asked why Grosvenor chose to record the music of Liszt Grosvenor says "He had so many sides to him as a person but also as a musician…some composers I suppose, if you were to devote and entire disc to them you might worry about a lack of variety, but with Liszt and his compositional output, there's such a lot of variety and there is also the fact he was such an incredible transcriber of other people's music. He had amazing gifts in taking a whole opera and summarizing it in to a paraphrase of 15 minutes."
What Grosvenor is referring to is his recording of the Reminiscences de Norma (after Bellini) that can be found on this latest disc. A piece that demands that the pianist is totally secure in his technique, and also that he has a clear idea of the narrative that Liszt is trying to get across in the music. Grosvenor succeeds in spades on both counts!
The centre-piece of his latest recording is the vast and expansive Liszt B minor sonata. This is a sonata that would send lesser mortal pianists running for the exit due to its technical requirements, intense interpretive demands, and need for sheer endurance needed by the pianist. The piece is in one large chunk that lasts roughly 30 minutes. As Grosvenor says "It's a piece to be consumed in its entirety" And what a feast! Grosvenor has shown that he is clearly up to the task. He has made a recording that is 30 minutes of sheer delight. The interpretation is engaging, and interesting; this combined with Grosvenor's technical perfection and innate ability to sing through the piano make this truly a musical banquet; complete with sides, tea and fine French pastries.
"It's an extraordinary journey filled with so many different emotions…throughout there is this kind of contrast between the divine and the diabolical," says Grosvenor. "There is this sort of devilish element which he sets out in the characters that we hear on the very first page...In terms of the structure, the whole piece is developed from material we hear in the first minute of the piece."
Throughout so many of his recordings and performances Benjamin Grosvenor has proven himself to be a master of lyricism and the ability to change tonal colors at the drop of a hat, as the music requires. This element of Grosvenor's playing comes shining through in his interpretations of the three Petracha Sonettos that come from Liszt's 2nd Book of Years of Pilgrimage. These pieces can also be found on the disc. "They are intimate works, they are inspired by poems of the 14th century poet Petrach," Grosvenor says. "They are all love poems essentially, and Liszt picks three that offer three contrasting visions of love." Here again Benjamin Grosvenor manages to bring out the tenderness and also the dramatic aspects of these three pieces.
This latest recording of the music of Liszt marks not only his latest triumph on record, but it also marks Grosvenor's renewal of his contract with Decca Records. "It's great to be continuing my partnership with them. I've recorded for Decca for ten years now, I signed when I was 18. I hope there will be many more years to come, and I look forward to the next few discs we have with this contract."
For us as listeners let's hope the partnership Grosvenor has with Decca is long and fruitful, because if this if this latest disc is anything to go by, it is going to fantastic partnership!
If you missed Chris Wolf's conversation with Benjamin Grosvenor, you can see the entire Zoom conversation here:
ClassicsToday Jed Distler writes.....Per Nørgård composed his first solo cello sonata between the ages of 19 and 21. His seriousness, sensitivity, and strong personality were clearly present early on. The first movement's brooding lyricism never turns on itself, while the microtonal gestures are expressively discreet and anything but gimmicky. The Allegro con brio finale is like a fragmented or interrupted gigue, where sudden double stops and pizzicato chords seemingly challenge the music's dance-like profile.
Wilhelmina Smith's lustrous sonority, wide dynamic range, and impeccable control in the highest registers bring forth the music's potential for color and drama. She conveys similar eloquence and sustaining power throughout No. 2, which consists of two pieces written nearly 27 years apart, and imparts an appropriately incantatory tone throughout the plaintive slides in the brief No. 3's "Prayer" outer movements.
Poul Ruders' Bravour-Studien is essentially a set of variations based on the Rennaissance era's greatest hit "L'homme armé". Ruders pushes the cellist's capabilities in many directions, from hard-to-voice pizzicato flourishes and sul ponticello effects to leaping chords and low-lying runs that must murmur without sounding muddy.
Smith's technical aplomb allows her to navigate Ruders' hurdles without difficulty. That said, I prefer Morten Zeuthen's more volatile and daring interpretation on Dacapo. His quavering vibrato in the opening Overture, for instance, immediately raises the emotional stakes, and the Etude boasts more abandon than in Smith's relatively careful reading, which, however, boasts more reliable intonation. While she nonchalantly dispatches the Intermezzo's arpeggiated chords, Zeuthen patiently spells them out, creating more of a contrast to the quiet pizzicato rejoinders. An unqualified recommendation for the Nørgård, but listeners interested in the Ruders should sample both Smith and Zeuthen.
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Beginning Monday, March 8 at 8 pm PT, Lara Downes will host "Evening Music with Lara Downes," a nightly program featuring classical music spanning centuries and styles, specially chosen and explored to reveal unique insights and context. Additionally, as the station's first-ever Resident Artist, Lara will curate and create new digital content that will engage the California community and give KDFC listeners a more in-depth look at the creativity and history that has shaped our musical lives.
Pianist Lara Downes is a sought-after performer, Billboard Chart-topping recording artist, producer, curator, activist, and arts advocate. Her dynamic work positions her as a cultural visionary on the national arts scene. Lara's musical roadmap seeks inspiration from the legacies of history, family, and collective memory, excavating the broad landscape of American music to create a series of acclaimed performance and recording projects that serve as gathering spaces for her listeners to find common ground and shared experience.
Current Host of the Evening Program, Rik Malone will still be featured as a host and continue to program the music for much of the KDFC schedule. Here's soem Q&A with Lara
AnalogPlanet's Michael Fremer writes.....Impulse! Records, founded in 1960 by Creed Taylor and home to some of the greatest jazz artists of all time including John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Quincy Jones, among many others, this year celebrates its 60th anniversary.
The orange-and-black imprint known as the "House That Trane Built" was a cultural beacon of progressivism, spiritualism, and activism throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Today, the label thrives with a new vanguard of jazz artists including Shabaka Hutchings, Sons of Kemet, The Comet Is Coming, Brandee Younger, Ted Poor and others.
Jamie Krents, EVP of Verve and Impulse! says, "Impulse! Records has an important and enduring legacy that we are proud to celebrate during this anniversary year. We are thrilled to unveil new music, visual content, merchandise, partnerships and more. The famous orange label has been the musical home to progressive artists that pushed the boundaries of music, thought, and culture. Impulse! continues this legacy with a commitment to our history, and our future with artists like Shabaka and Brandee, who both carry the torch and blaze new trails. We are proud to share the story of this remarkable label with the world in this, its 60th year."
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99.5CRB - Boston's Cathy Fuller writes.....Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor talks about his personal and passionate testament to the visionary spirit of Franz Liszt, prepared and recorded in the dark months of COVID. Grosvenor is twenty-eight, and yet his remarkable musicianship has been capturing the hearts of the public for a long time. He won the BBC Young Musician Competition at eleven, when his imagination and technical prowess were already producing an uncanny brand of maturity and sparkle.
Now, in isolation as the COVID lockdown drags on in London, he has focused on the kaleidoscopic output of Franz Liszt. In our conversation, he talks about being so close to Liszt, while remaining so distant from life as it used to be. (See a full transcript below.)
Building around the epic Sonata in B minor, Grosvenor includes the magical (and ferociously taxing) Reminiscences of Norma, as well as the three Petrarch Sonnets from the exquisite Years of Pilgrimage. Also included is a haunting account of a rarely-played version of the Berceuse and the beautiful reworking of Schubert's song Ave Maria. The result is a fresh and loving recording, dedicated to the grandfather he recently lost, who inspired Benjamin to play the piano in the first place.
The challenges in Liszt's music are many and monumental, like pacing the climaxes as they arrive one after another (as in his transcription of themes from Bellini's Norma), or getting a melody to sing out with your thumbs while the rest of your fingers are busy conjuring elaborate atmospheres (in the Ave Maria).
One of the greatest challenges is in the Sonata, keeping an immense, over-arching structure intact while moments of beauty erupt spontaneously. As Grosvenor said in our interview, "Only as time progresses do you realize that it's actually part of this great master plan that [Liszt] has, that goes over the massive breadth and length of this piece."
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British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor is internationally recognized for his electrifying performances, distinctive sound, and insightful interpretations. The album Liszt signifies his most substantial solo recording to date, centered around the works of the Romantic piano virtuoso and composer Franz Liszt. Grosvenor says, "The music of Liszt has been central to my repertoire since I was introduced to it as a child, by my grandfather. I wanted with this recording to show the composer in his different aspects, including some of his original compositions, but also displaying the extraordinarily re-creative abilities he showed in his transcriptions."
For February 19, 2021 - Benjamin Grosvenor - Liszt is the WFMT: Chicago 'Featured New Release'
Classical WETA 90.9 FM showcases notable new (or newly reissued) albums each week. Hear selections from the album on-air throughout the week, and check online to learn more about the artist and the music.
We're pleased to resume Album of the Week during Black History Month by featuring the wonderfully talented family of musicians: the Kanneh-Masons. They recently released a recording of Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns, along with several other animal-themed classical works.
The Carnival of the Animals features a new text by author Michael Morpurgo, narrated by him and Academy Award-winning actor Olivia Colman (of The Crown fame). Listen all week for portions of the Carnival as well as several full performances.
Here is a note from the seven talented Kanneh-Masons who are featured in this recording:
The idea for this album grew from our special connection with music as young children. Music that speaks to the young, brought to life in the creative dialogue between narrative and sound has an impact that lasts a lifetime. As very young children, our parents introduced us to Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, and we listened to this obsessively every morning before Primary school. (We still love the way the music illustrates the words spoken in that recording by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Dame Edna Everage!)
We were all similarly fascinated by the magical world of story and music created in Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns. The drama, the picture-painting and the humour which is packed into the music has been brought into vivid colour by Michael Morpurgo's story poems, – also narrated by the extraordinary Olivia Colman – which are funny, exciting and at times incredibly moving.
Milan Records today announces the February 12 release of MINARI (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK) with music by award-winning composer EMILE MOSSERI (The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Kajillionaire).
The third volume in David Korevaar's highly acclaimed series devoted to Lowell Liebermann's solo piano music (MSR Classics MS1688) continues his journey of recording all of Liebermann's works for the piano.
Grammy and Oscar-nominated songwriter and composer Stephan Moccio has released a brand new solo piano version of ‘Earned It', a track he co-wrote and co-produced with The Weeknd for the 2015 blockbuster film Fifty Shades of Grey.
This brand-new recording marks the continuation of Leipzig's Bruckner Cycle with Andris Nelsons and the Gewandhausorchester
Andris Nelsons and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig continue their award-winning Bruckner cycle.
How do the great musicians prepare to play the great works? Each has his or her own methods, and tends to keep the strategy quiet, a secret key to success.
One thing that distinguishes the subtle Benjamin Grosvenor, 28, from the rest of the pack of young star pianists is his extensive knowledge of historical recordings. This listening has paid off in a spellbinding Liszt recording out on Decca on Friday, crowned with a typically thoughtful account of the treacherous Sonata in B minor.
"I almost feel like you should know the notable recordings of a work like this," Grosvenor said of the sonata in a recent interview. "More than anything, it helps you understand what works and what doesn't work. You react to some things positively and you react to some things negatively, and that fuels your imagination."
What do you think about the opening bars of the sonata, which are so spare compared to what follows?
It's foreboding, and mysterious, and a little bit threatening. It would be quite interesting to just line up eight recordings of the first bar. For someone who is a music lover but who is not that acquainted with putting a piece together, it might just be interesting to hear how two notes can essentially be interpreted in so many different ways.
There are many valid approaches. What Vladimir Horowitz does in a large hall in his Carnegie recording, this kind of demonic thing, works very well. Cherkassky's is interesting; it sounds like he's improvising, like it's something that's just come to him in the moment, but it's obviously conscious because he executes it in the same way at the end of the slow movement as well.
I was aiming for something mysterious, almost - so the notes are not too present. They're quite soft, very much like plucked strings, the bass more in it than the treble, like what Alfred Brendel does.
So comparisons with orchestral sounds help you define what you are trying to achieve, even in a work as pianistic as this?
As a pianist you've been playing the piano all of your life; you have a natural association with piano sound. So it's only when you're forced to put it into words that you try to make those associations. But it is an appropriate way to think, because, for most composers, the piano is always trying to imitate other instruments, because of its nature as a percussion instrument. Again, it's a line of thought that adds fire to the imagination, and the colors that you then draw out.
One of the challenges in the piece is how to create tension over the whole, or even just over shorter periods of double octaves, or continuous fortissimo dynamics. You picked out a section near the start as an example.
In this double-octave passage there is a lot of fortissimo playing, and you vary that in terms of dynamics, but the meter is the same for a while, with these continuous quavers.
Horowitz, in the final rise and descent, just pushes through. There's lots of wrong notes, but it's raw. It's exceptionally difficult because of the octaves, but if you can push through it in that way I think it's very effective, all the way to the lowest note on the piano.
So when you are playing the piece live, does atmosphere matter more than precision in passages like this?
Yes, this is music that's probably not supposed to be played cleanly. Part of the struggle is, it is technically difficult, but that's what makes it exciting. Someone said of Horowitz that his playing is not exciting because he plays fast, but because he plays faster than he can. In this music there's an element of that. Lupu generates the tension in a different way; it's tension by holding back, by creating a limit that you're working against.
Then the slow movement poses quite different challenges.
It's magical music. The most incredible bit for me is this ascending line in the right hand, the scales after the climax. It's the most static point of the piece, and a groove needs to be found between static to the point of no motion, and finding the magic that's in it. Not to play it too casually. Claudio Arrau there is very special; it's such a wonderful moment with these triple pianissimos - finding that beautiful color, and where to take the time.
Then comes the fugue, a moment when I'm always wondering how fast a pianist is going to try to play. Is this another place where aura matters more than accuracy?
The counterpoint needs to be clear. So it's the point at which you can still characterize it, and that point is different for each pianist, as long as it builds and builds gradually to the right point.
Intellectually speaking it's not necessarily correct, but I quite like the idea of treating the first five bars as a kind of fanfare. They don't carry enough to push forward out of the slow movement, so to me they inevitably sit somewhere in between if you are going to take it at that tempo. I like the change of pace there.
The magic, and the music, of the slow movement return on the very last page.
It's this final transition from darkness to light: the rumbling in the left hand, then the way that it ascends to the top of the piano. Those diminished chords are little shards of light, then it comes away to the very low notes, then these transcendent last chords. That's what the last page is about: transcendence. You can't help but think that the last note is an awakening from a dream.
Close listening brought out the enormous range of possibilities in a work that presents an intellectual challenge of interpretation as much as a punishing test of technique. The piece is a Faustian struggle between the diabolical and the divine; the question is how to make it cohere over more than 30 minutes.
Image“You react to some things positively and you react to some things negatively,” Grosvenor said, “and that fuels your imagination.”
"You react to some things positively and you react to some things negatively," Grosvenor said, "and that fuels your imagination."Credit...Kalpesh Lathigra for The New York Times
There is no single answer. The example of Radu Lupu points in one direction. "It has this great inevitability about it," Grosvenor said of Lupu's interpretation. "In terms of the way he controls the pulse it's quite symphonic, and also in the kinds of sounds he produces."
Shura Cherkassky, a figure beloved of pianophiles whose impulsive, visionary performances were so idiosyncratic that Grosvenor said he would never dare imitate them, offers something else in a live recording from 1965. "Sometimes it feels kind of improvisatory and sometimes he doesn't quite do what's written in the score," Grosvenor said. "But he somehow makes this miracle of his own unique narrative from it."
Perils lurk whichever way a pianist turns. "The danger in pursuing this symphonic, quite rigid, controlled outlook is that it could quite easily become something more of an academic exercise than the fantastical piece that it is," Grosvenor said. "And obviously if you go along the Cherkassky route, you could make it sound like something that doesn't make much sense."
If Grosvenor successfully traces a course between those extremes, he also takes inspiration from how his forebears have resolved the many difficulties in a work of this scale. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Hot on the heels of his 2020 Diapason d'Or and Gramophone Award triumphs, British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor presents his first album in a renewed exclusive partnership with Decca Classics.
The album, Liszt, is released on 19th February 2021, signifying Grosvenor's most substantial solo recording to date, centred around the works of the Romantic piano virtuoso and composer, Franz Liszt. The release marks Benjamin's sixth album on Decca Classics, following the award-winning Chopin Piano Concertos in 2020.
Grosvenor says, "Decca Classics has been my recording home for the last decade, and I'm pleased that we are continuing our partnership with this new release. The music of Liszt has been central to my repertoire since I was introduced to it as a child, by my grandfather. I wanted with this recording to show the composer in his different aspects, including some of his original compositions, but also displaying the extraordinarily re-creative abilities he showed in his transcriptions."
British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor presents a new recording of two concerto favorites: Chopin's Piano Concertos Nos.1 and 2, released on Decca Classics. Recorded with Elim Chan and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO), the record marks Benjamin's fifth album on Decca Classics, following the hugely successful Homages in 2016, and is his first orchestral album since 2012.
These works have been an active part of Grosvenor's repertoire since his early teens: "Chopin was the first composer to whom I felt a strong connection as a child. I have always been drawn to his music, and his piano concertos are among some of the finest in the repertoire." Of the new recording, which came to fruition following a successful performance of the Piano Concerto No.2 with Elim Chan and the RSNO in 2018, Benjamin notes: "I am delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with Elim and the outstanding musicians of the RSNO." Benjamin appears this spring in the US performing the Piano Concerto No.1.
In this new recording, British pianist Benjmain Grosvenor explores works by great composers paying tribute to their predecessors. Among these works, Mendelssohn looks back to the Prelude & Fugue form made so popular by Bach; and Franck does likewise (adding a Chorale as a central section). Busoni takes Bach's great solo violin Chaconne, presenting it in a bold transcription for piano; Chopin breathes new life in to the traditional ‘Barcarolle' of Venetian gondoliers, followed ten years later by Lizst's tribute to Italian folksong, Venezia e Napoli. From the 20th Century, Ravel looks to the traditional baroque suite for inspiration for his Tombeau de Couperin (available only on the digital release). The new album will be released by Decca on September 9, 2016.
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Benjamin Grosvenor presents Dances, a glittering album shining the spotlight on music from Bach to Boogie Woogie via Chopin, Scriabin, Granados and the Blue Danube. Grosvenor states: "This album's inspiration comes from a letter in 1909 from Busoni, proposing a ‘dance program' comprising original compositions and transcriptions.With Bach's 4th Partita as its starting point, this recording presents a chronologically and geographically wide-ranging recital of works by composers (and transcribers) to whose output the keyboard was central, featuring both familiar and more obscure gems from the piano repertoire."
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