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Benjamin Grosvenor & Hyeyoon Park

Twice the treat from Music NAirn
Sunday 6th March, 2016

The sad demise of the Moray International Piano Competition had an unexpectedly positive spin off, providing funding to allow Music Nairn to promote a special concert featuring one of the most exciting young stars of the piano world, Benjamin Grosvenor. At just 24 years of age, he is already internationally celebrated following his triumph in the BBC Young Musician Competition in 2004 and subsequent performances at the 2011 First Night of the Proms and in the BBC documentary 'Imagine being a Concert Pianist'. He opened his recital with two of Mendelssohn's six Preludes and Fugues op 35, a work composed over a ten year period with the self-declared aim of formalising the composer's rampant creativity! The first declamatory Prelude in E minor is followed by a wonderfully wayward Fugue subject, which the composer handles with consummate ease, even effortlessly combining it with a harmonisation of Luther's chorale Ein' feste Burg by J S Bach, thereby neatly underlining his own Lutheran credentials and nodding in homage to his musical hero, the composer of a monumental set of 48 Preludes and Fugues. The fifth Prelude in F minor seems to come straight from Mendelssohn's own oratorio Elijah, whereas the intricate scampering Fugue provides opportunities for keyboard bravura. Benjamin Grosvenor's approach to these works certainly abounded in bravura, but more impressive still were his miraculously versatile touch and his intelligent musicality. Music Nairn's magnificent Steinway veritably sang under his fingers!

The first half concluded with Chopin's Sonata, a work based around his celebrated Funeral March, which constitutes the slow movement. Picking up the repeated note motif which defines this famous work, the other movements seem to draw on this same material. The fugitive finale shows Chopin at his most haunted and imaginative, and Grosvenor captured perfectly the dark splendour of this unusual work.

In an inspired piece of concert promotion, Grosvenor was joined for the second half by his exact contemporary, the exciting young Korean violinist, Hyeyoon Park, whose stunning account of the Ravel Sonata was startlingly vivid and thrilling. The oriental and abstract world portrayed by the opening Allegretto gives way to a brittle, bluesy Moderato, spikey and constantly teetering on the edge of entropy, before concluding with a frenetic breathless Perpetuum Mobile. Park and Grosvenor, who revealed his considerable skills as a sensitive accompanist, relished the technical demands of this remarkable piece and their performance was a musical and technical tour de force.

The concert concluded with one of the undisputed masterpieces of the violin repertoire, the Third Sonata by Brahms. This is a meaty repast by anybody's standards, and the young musicians rejoiced in its musical riches, at the same time never losing sight of its many subtleties. The slight-figured Miss Park drew towering chords of sound from her violin, flying with ease through passages of rapid scalic writing, and bringing a beautiful singing tone to Brahms' lyrical melodies. As with most of Brahms' sonatas, rather than accompanying, the piano takes on the role of an equal, and Brahms' own formidable keyboard technique means that pianists are often more stretched than their musical partners. With Benjamin Grosvenor there was no sign of this, as he mastered Brahms' most frightening demands with considerable ease. Extended, enthusiastic and thoroughly deserved applause for the pair, elicited a delightful encore of Fritz Kreisler's Tambourin Chinois, which charmingly concluded this evening of first-rate music-making.

Reviewed by: D James Ross

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