Benjamin Grosvenor and Friends by Norman Stinchcombe

Birmingham Town Hall

There’s a famous romantic painting of a Schubertiade, a candle-lit musical evening, with the composer at the piano surrounded by admirers and fellow-performers. Making allowances for the size of the venue, the young British pianist and his colleagues captured some of that Schubertiade spirit in an immensely satisfying recital. The mood was created by Schubert’s predominantly gentle Nocturne in E flat major where Grosvenor, Hyeyoon Park (violin) and Kian Soltani (cello) played with great delicacy. Schubert’s effervescent Trout Piano Quintet – with the addition of Timothy Ridout (viola) and Leon Bosch (double bass) – was a joy from its unassuming opening, which tiptoes in pianissimo, to its robust earthy finale. The five variations on Schubert’s song were individually shaped and I was impressed by young cellist Soltani – his Town Hall recital next February will be one to watch.
The composer Brett Dean – who was to have performed his own work for solo viola – was unavailable and instead we had Bartok’s Rhapsody No.1, a vigorous collision between the composer’s jagged style and traditional Transylvanian fiddle tunes, clearly enjoyed by Grosvenor and Park who struck sparks from each other. Brahms’ Piano Quartet No 1 with its rich quasi-orchestral textures has a tendency to sound dense unless, as here, it’s clarified by the players. Right from the off, as the second theme magically steals in to disperse the minor-key shadows, this performance promised to be a fine one – a promise fulfilled. The madcap gypsy finale was irresistible with Gardner relishing Brahms’ gravity-defying top-of-the-keyboard runs. Bravo!

Norman Stinchcombe

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