Grosvenor and Trifonov in Vancouver

Two of the best young pianists around performing the same week in my town! Pretty exciting stuff. I’ll be at both concerts and try to write up a few impressions.

Grosvenor at Vancouver Playhouse (tomorrow)


Siciliano in G minor from Flute Sonata No. 2 in E-flat major BWV 1031

Ertödt’ uns durch dein’ Güte (Movement 5 of ‘Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe’, BWV 22)

Prelude in E Minor BWV 555

Largo from the Sonata No. 3 in C Major for solo violin BWV 1005
Sinfonia from Cantata ‘Wir Danken Dir, Gott, Wir Danken Dir’, BWV 29

Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 7

Mazurkas Op. 3 (selections)

Valse, Op. 38

Polonaise in F-sharp minor, Op. 44

Blue Danube

Trifonov on Wednesday April 10:

Scriabin Sonata No. 2, Op. 19

Liszt Sonata in B Minor

Rachmaninoff Variations on a Theme by Chopin, Op. 22 … onov-piano

both really don’t do it for me at all, but i’d still be interested in hearing what you have to say about these two.

True. I’m actually a bit excited just to hear some of these pieces performed at a high standard (like the Scriabin Mazurkas, F sharp polonaise, Shulz Evler).

I think Grosvenor is head and shoulders above Trifonov, but please do share your thoughts after the concerts!

I agree.
I liked Grosvenor better when he was a prodigy, and Trifinov… I’m just indifferent to.
I like Geniushas better than these two, but even he is hit and miss.

I’m not sure if those 2 programs could be any more different than each other!

I had a 6th row, center orchestra ticket. First, the Bach transcriptions. Nothing really stood out for me in the first few pieces (of these pieces, I’m only really familiar with the Bach-Kempff).

The sound didn’t really rise above mezzo-forte until the Saint-Saens arrangement. I found myself wondering if it was the hall, the piano’s voicing, or if Benjamin was just not projecting sound that well. In any case, the Bach pieces were pretty played aside from maybe a subdued dynamic range. By the way, that rarely heard Saint-Saens arrangement sounds very difficult, but I was left a bit unconvinced of its musical value.

The Beethoven was quite well done. The e-flat major is one that isn’t heard very often, for good reason (I think it has one of the most boring possible slow movements. Aside from Schnabel, I don’t thing many people can make it worth listening to). Grosvenor’s playing had excellent rhytmic flair in the outer movements, and held my attention reasonably well in the inner movements. In some of the chords, it sounded like he was voicing in a weird, secco way, but it turned out there was something weird going on with the piano - a technician was brought out during intermission to fix it.

The Scriabin Mazurkas had great colouristic detail, rhythmic imagination, and natural expression. He played 3 (G minor), 4 (E major) , 6 (C sharp minor), and 1 (B minor). 4 was especially spellbinding.

He (thankfully) took some chances in the F sharp polonaise (he missed one of those gruesome skips, as well as the last octave at the end of those tricky runs (at least a couple times)).

He played the Schulz-Evler with the ostinato-like intro that most people leave out. The performance of this difficult work was done with a lot of panache (especially that introduction, which was brilliantly done), though the meter wasn’t on the level of Lhevinne (the part corresponding to 2:56 in the Lhevinne performance had too many downbeats in Grosvenor’s). From where I was sitting it looked like he played his super fast octaves from the shoulder with a somewhat high wrist, which he unleashed AK-47 style. I don’t know how this is even possible, actually. (I’m used to thinking about these kinds of super-fast octaves played with a loose, low wrist a la Vlad).

He played (beautifully) a Mendelssohn Song without words for encore.

Overall, pretty promising stuff from a pianist who’s only 20. I didn’t find anything super inspiring, but his interpretations are already sophisticated and colorful and can only get better with more confidence. The only main pianistic critique I can think of (that I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t heard him live) is that the sound can probably be projected better; i.e., not enough arm weight for my taste. Maybe he should start working out, or not working out (like Volodos).

Thanks for the review!
Maybe he didn’t make enough of an adjustment to the hall in terms of projection?
I saw a recital on Friday night in a very small hall but mercifully the pianist adjusted to the venue by not playing above what would be MF in a regular sized hall. Here however, it sounded FF.
If he’d have played at a genuine fortissimo it would’ve blown out my eardrums.

His live Chopin etudes sucked pretty bad though, he is not ready to record it. A shame that DG is pushing him to do it.

Sorry for not writing something right after the concert. My seats weren’t as good in the Chan centre and the acoustics were a lot different, so it’s pointless trying to directly compare the pianists’ sound.

Trifonov’s playing is colorful and spontaneous, but he seemed to push his limits more. So there were some exciting moments, but I felt some phrasings didn’t make sense. Grosvenor had a few inaccuracies, but he always seemed 100% in control.

For an encore, Trifonov played the second movement of the Rachmaninoff Bach transcription, as well as some kind of transcription from Stravinsky’s firebird.

Someone’s iPhone xylophone ringtone went off during the final bars of the Liszt - SEVERAL TIMES. It was appalling. Especially ironic occurance at a Triphoneoff concert. :dong:

The Firebird transcription was Anton Ugorski’s.