Arts Blog

Benjamin Grosvenor’s “Homages”

The young British pianist, Benjamin Grosvenor, is an artist whose recordings have featured in All Classical Portland’s programming for the past few years. “Dances” was a disc that make a creative connection between such disparate styles and eras as Bach and Granados. “Homages”, Mr. Grosvenor’s newest, also extends a hand across the centuries, but some of that connection is also made within the pieces, especially with Busoni’s monumental transcription of Bach’s Chaconne in d minor (for unaccompanied violin). At times this is as much – if not more – the voice of the late-Romantic Italian pianist as it is of the Kapellmeister from Leipzig. It’s the perfect “overture” to the rest of the disc’s selections.

As he mentions in my accompanying interview (see link), Grosvenor avoids the slavishness of adhering to chronology, although moving from Bach to Mendelssohn feels perfectly natural, as it was Mendelssohn who brought Bach to the world after decades of neglect. Cesar Franck, the Belgian-born organist, pianist and composer, brings a heightened level of emotion in his Prélude, Choral et Fugue. That work came several decades after Chopin’s Barcarolle, which follows: Chopin dreamt of Venice, a city he never visited, but evokes with great clarity in his Opus 60 piano work. Liszt follows (he did visit Venice; late in life, he accompanied an aging and ill Richard Wagner, who eventually died there), with Venezia e Napoli (Venice and Naples). Liszt’s “Gondoliera” is the ideal follow-up to Chopin’s Barcarolle, and continues on with a mournful “Canzone”, and a lively and rhythmic Tarantella, continuing the homage to previous composers of writing works about a feverish dance meant to sweat out the venom of a tarantula bite.

“Homages” doesn’t end with Liszt’s frenetic arachnophobic dance, though. The disc continues online with digital downloads of Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, which he wrote in tribute not only to the French composer, but to friends of Ravel’s who had perished in the Great War. Given the scale of homages from one composer to another that can be found in music, Benjamin Grosvenor could have continued his tributes for a very long time.

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Homages – Grosvenor

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