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Benjamin Grosvenor - Dances / New Classical Tracks feature

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CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE JULIE AMACHER'S INTERVIEW w/ Benjamin Grosvenor

Transcript - When you were 22 years old, did you know what you were doing the next week, much less the next year?

When you're one of the most sought-after young pianists, you do. Benjamin Grosvenor is a rising young British pianist who says having his calendar blocked out through 2016 is a bit surreal. "You're planning your life two years in advance all the time," he says. "But you get used to it. There are a lot of decisions to be made on a daily basis, some of which can be tricky."

Three years ago, Benjamin became the youngest British musician ever to sign on with Decca Classics. He recently released his second solo recording titledDances. It was inspired by a letter written in 1909 by the Italian composer-pianist Ferruccio Busoni, who proposed a dance program made up of original works and transcriptions. "So I wanted to construct a program with roughly the same model," Benjamin explains. "And what appealed to me about the dance theme was that it allowed for such a scope when it came to repertoire. There's music stretching back to Bach and before that fits the bill."

On Dances, Benjamin creates a program that's quite varied in terms of repertoire, some of which is familiar, and some of which is a little more obscure. The first half of the program features two larger scale works, Bach's Partita No. 4 in D Major and two Chopin Polonaises. "Then we move to early mazurkas by Scriabin and then to his Waltz from his middle period which is ecstatic and hedonistic," Benjamin says. "Sort of a waltz in the skies.

"Scriabin is a fascinating composer because of the way his style developed," he continues. "He was about 17 when he wrote those. Not all the early works are interesting but these mazurkas are quite beautiful. They were inspired by Chopin, most definitely, as a lot of his music was at that time, with this individual quality to it, this Russian twist, I suppose. Complicated, sometimes strange harmonies that he works in here and there and the counterpoint is very individual." A set of eight waltzes by the Spanish composer, pianist Enrique Granados, are also somewhat atypical for Benjamin. "Granados is a composer we associate with very Spanish music," he says. "It inhabits a certain idiom and this piece not so much. Still there are Spanish elements in the prelude, you hear strumming of guitars and we have waltzes which sound Parisian but it's all very melodic, vocal music and very charming."


You'll also be charmed - and amazed - by the piano transcription of Johann Strauss's Blue Danube Waltz by Polish-born composer Adolf Schulz-Evler. "It's a very difficult piece," Benjamin admits. "The writing's so difficult but it requires such lightness of touch. The first three pages alone are quite something - 800 notes in the first three pages. Quite a finger-bender in places. It's taxing, yet a really imaginative transcription - the way he treats the themes, it's really ingenious. And I guess it's not all that often played these days."

After this finger-busting waltz you'll find yourself wanting more, and Benjamin Grosvenor delivers offering two fun encore pieces from the 20th century - a Tango by Isaac Albeniz and a Boogie-Woogie Etude by Morton Gould.

Take a spin through Benjamin Grosvenor's new recording, Dances, and you'll quickly hear why he's one of the most sought-after young pianists of his day.