Some thoughts around the new Liszt album from Benjamin Grosvenor

Benjamin Grosvenor

I’m a big fan of this young British pianist (maybe not as extreme a fan as Gramophone who adore every single one of his albums). I’ve previously reviewed and praised his Chopin concertos (part of my top 5 albums of 2020), his Homages album, his Chopin/Liszt/Ravel album, which also appeared in my Top 10 Chopin albums, and I’ve even listed him among my Top 10 Classical pianists (a list that led to a lot of debate by the way).

So I had really high hopes when Grosvenor recently released his latest recording, of nothing less than Liszt’s magnificent b-minor sonata, plus some other works.

Benjamin Grosvenor – Liszt (Decca 2021)

Benjamin Grosvenor - Liszt - Decca 2021 - 24 96

Now, before I go to the meaty bit, the b-minor sonata, let me start by saying that I really love how Grosvenor plays the other pieces on this album, particularly the extract from the Années de Pélérinage.

Also particularly interesting is Liszt’s 15 min piano adaptation of Bellini’s classic, Réminiscenes de Norma, a less often played work.

And I can’t get enough of the beautiful piano adaptation of Schubert’s Ave Maria.

The b-minor sonata

I really love the b-minor sonata, it is to me at least the ultimate Liszt piece. And here’s where we get to my “but” that you probably saw coming from my intro above.

Let me start by the positives: I really like how he takes the Andante sostenuto slower than most, giving it a special sense of intimacy and out-of-this-world spirit.

Now, what am I missing here, in what is actually a very good version?

Well I really believe one needs to go to the biggest extremes in this work (an opinion probably not universally shared). That’s why my favorite versions will remain those of the legendary Martha Argerich, and the somewhat controversial version by Katia Buniatishvili. In some parts, I just wish Grosvenor would push things just a bit further, he certainly has the power and technical abilities to do it.

Nevertheless, this is a beautiful album absolutely worth having.

My rating: 4 stars

You can find it here (Qobuz)

Author: Musicophile

I'm not a professional musician, I don't work in the music industry, I'm just what the name says, somebody who loves music. I've been in love with music for all of my life, took piano lessons for nearly 10 years, and played in several amateur Jazz groups. I go to concerts, both classical and Jazz, quite regularly. And I collect music previously on vinyl and CDs, now on my computer, and am slightly OCD on my music collection. You can reach me at Musicophile1(AT)gmail.com

7 thoughts on “Some thoughts around the new Liszt album from Benjamin Grosvenor”

  1. Thank you very much for your review! Since you said you missed the “extremes” in the sonata, here is a performance that packs lots of power into it. I am not a musician, but to my ears this performance is truly convincing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Rob,
      Mykola Suk has done a very decent job. Thank you for including the video for us. Whilst you are not a musician, you do have a very good ear for fine music.

      Dear Musicophile,
      I concur with you that Benjamin Grosvenor could have pushed the envelope even more. In general, it is very difficult to really distinguish oneself from the others in such a familiar and often-played work as Liszt’s B-minor Sonata.

      Indeed, Martha Argerich’s rendition of the sonata is exceptional, as is her performance of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto.

      Speaking of piano sonata, I have composed three. Here’s my Second Piano Sonata entitled “The Time Beyond”:

      You can find more music in my main blog. I have only published a fraction of my musical compositions.

      May both of you and Rob find the new Springtime very much to your liking and highly conducive to your writing, reading, thinking, listening and blogging whatever musical topics that take your aesthetic and intellectual fancy!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are very welcome, Musicophile. Please be informed that you might need to use a desktop or laptop computer with a large screen to view the rich multimedia contents available for heightening your multisensory enjoyment at my blog, which could be too powerful and feature-rich for iPad, iPhone, tablet or other portable devices to handle properly or adequately.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I am generally speaking no ‘fan’ of Liszt at all. But the b minor piano sonata certainly is a piece that does resonate with me. But then this is one of the relatively few of his compositions that is actually based on original themes and where Liszt has not “borrowed” material from other composers to create show-pieces for himself.

    Liked by 1 person

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