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).