British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor presents a new recording of two concerto favourites: Chopin’s Piano Concertos Nos.1 and 2, released on Decca Classics today. Recorded with Elim Chan and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO), the record marks Benjamin’s fifth album on Decca Classics, following the hugely successful Homages in 2016, and is his first orchestral album since 2012.
These works have been a part of Grosvenor’s repertoire since his early teens: “Chopin was the first composer to whom I felt a strong connection as a child. I have always been drawn to his music, and his piano concertos are among some of the finest in the repertoire.” The new recording came to fruition following a successful performance of the Piano Concerto No.2 with Elim Chan and the RSNO in 2018.
Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.2, Op.21, written in 1829, and Piano Concerto No.1, Op.11 completed the following year, were written before Chopin turned 21, and before he left his native Poland. The F minor Concerto (No.2) echoes the concertos of Hummel, Moscheles, Kalkbrenner and Field. Its first public performance on 21st March 1830 was a moderate success – Chopin’s piano was too soft-toned and could hardly be heard over the assembled instrumentalists. The second performance a day later, performed on a more robust Viennese piano was a triumph.
Although the energetic orchestral introduction of the E minor Concerto (No.1) is twice as long as that of the F minor, there are few more bewitching slow movements than the Larghetto section which follows. Chopin labelled it ‘Romanza’, the only time he used the label and the only composition of his to which he attached a programme. The finale is a rondo of infectious gaiety which resembles the fast, syncopated Polish dance form, the Krakowiak. On 22nd September 1830, Chopin tried out the work at his home (with a small orchestral ensemble) before arranging the first public performance in the Warsaw National Theatre on 11th October.
Winner of the Keyboard Final of the 2004 BBC Young Musician Competition at the age of eleven, Benjamin Grosvenor is now an internationally regarded pianist performing with esteemed conductors and orchestras across the world. A BBC New Generation Artist from 2010-2012 Benjamin has performed at the BBC Proms on a number of occasions and in 2015 starred at the Last Night of the Proms. Exclusively signed to Decca Classics, the youngest British musician to do so, his recordings have received numerous awards and in October 2016 he was announced as the inaugural recipient of the Ronny and Lawrence Ackman Classical Piano Prize at the New York Philharmonic. Playing since the age of six, Benjamin graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 2012 with the ‘Queen’s Commendation for Excellence’.
Recent and forthcoming concerto highlights include engagements with the Boston and Chicago Symphony Orchestras, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Gürzenich-Orchestra Cologne, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Filarmonica della Scala. Among Benjamin’s major recital dates this season are London’s Wigmore Hall, Théâtre des Champs Elysées Paris, Munich’s Herkulessaal, Cologne Philharmonie, Palau de la Música Catalana Barcelona, New York’s distinguished Peoples’ Symphony Concerts, and Vancouver Recital Series.
The first female winner of the Donatella Flick Conducting Competition 2014, Elim Chan is internationally regarded as one of the most sought-after young conductors. She leads the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in her role as Principal Guest Conductor, in debut recording. Elim has now been appointed Chief Conductor of the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra.