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This is Benjamin Grosvenor’s first concerto disc. The programming is exemplary, with each major piece followed by an intriguing, brief encore; in two cases, transcriptions add another musical voice to the mix. Grosvenor’s way with Saint-Saëns’s Second Piano Concerto is most affecting, capturing not only its fantasy but also its Bachian inspiration. The major competition here comes from Stephen Hough (Hyperion), and if Grosvenor does not quite match Hough’s lightness of touch in the central Allegro scherzando, he certainly gives him a run for his money in the breezy finale, where fleet fingerwork and fizzing trills lift Grosvenor’s performance to another level. The filigree of Godowsky’s Swan transcription takes the music’s trajectory closer to Ravel.

He gives a fine account of the Ravel concerto too, if not quite scaling the heights of Michelangeli’s legendary reading. The recording allows for plenty of orchestral detail and Grosvenor highlights the intimacy of the first movement, thus linking it to the heartfelt central Adagio assai (where the pianist is eclipsed by a heartbreaking cor anglais solo). But it is in the finale that he finally hits true form. The 1913 Prélude is a blissful encore.

The clarinet’s sliding glissando that opens the Gershwin is alone worth the price of the disc. The sound stage for the jazz band is generally convincing, although there is some spotlighting. Nevertheless this is a bright and breezy account, full of felicitous touches from Grosvenor, complementing rather than eclipsing Previn/LSO’s full-fat Gershwin.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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