The acclaimed British pianist, Benjamin Grosvenor, still only 30 and yet a well-established favourite of critics and audiences around the globe, takes Robert Schumann’s haunting Kreisleriana as his starting point in his new album, Schumann & Brahms. This eight-movement work portrays the mercurial personality of the fictional Johannes Kreisler, created by E. T. A. Hoffmann: Kreisler’s highs and lows, and his dreamy nature, clearly mirror Schumann’s own tragic manic-depressive tendencies. Grosvenor responds to the composer’s autobiographical honesty with playing of sublime tenderness, dazzling variety, and imaginative empathy.
He accompanies the work with the melancholic Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann by Schumann’s beloved wife Clara (who, incidentally, stated that she was much disturbed by the visions conjured up in Kreisleriana). Further kaleidoscopic variety is provided by Robert’s Blumenstück, and Quasi Variazione: Andantino de Clara Wieck. The recital also includes Brahms’ Three Intermezzi, autumnal works which shed a fascinating light on the complicated relationship which existed between Robert, Clara and Brahms himself. Grosvenor’s own arrangement of Robert’s Abendlied completes the programme.
The recording is Benjamin Grosvenor’s seventh for Decca since 2011, when he became the youngest musician – and also the first British pianist in more than sixty years – to sign to the label. Since then he has won inter alia several Gramophone Awards, and the prestigious Diapason d’Or de l’année. After a spectacular win, at the age of just 11, in the keyboard section of the BBC Young Musician competition, he went on to become the youngest soloist ever to appear at the opening night of the BBC Proms in 2011.
That extraordinary promise, shown so early in his career, continues to delight and move audiences worldwide, with regular appearances at international concert halls from Chicago to Paris.
‘You have to pinch yourself to believe what he is doing… he creates waves of passion with grandeur, urgency and panache’ (Diapason, 2021); ‘He provokes sheer wonder’ (Hamburger Abendblatt, 2021); ‘A prodigious gift for storytelling’ (Musical America, 2019). His performances of Schumann have come in for particular praise: ‘Presented some of the finest Schumann playing I have encountered in a long time… Grosvenor has the music’s full measure’ (Seen and Heard, 2021); ‘I often thought that I had never heard Kreisleriana sound so beautiful’ (Culture, 2019)
Grosvenor also has a hugely impressive online following, and can boast hundreds of thousands of views and streams of his performances on Spotify, YouTube and other platforms. With the passionate, mercurial and uniquely oneiric performance he offers on his latest release, that success looks set to continue.