The three principal works that Benjamin Grosvenor has chosen for his first concerto album complement each
other perfectly. The urbane charm and dazzling virtuosity of Saint-Saens lead naturally on to the brittle brilliance
and dry wit of his fellow Frenchman Ravel. Ravels distinctly jazzy G major Concerto was written soon after hed
met Gershwin, and just a few years after the great Broadway songsmith had so spectacularly gatecrashed his
way into the classical world with his syncopated, note-bending Rhapsody in Blue.
Rhapsody in Blue needs neither verbal advocacy nor apology from me, says Benjamin Grosvenor. It s simply
a work of rapturous inventiveness a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, as Gershwin himself called
In his new recording, Benjamin Grosvenor puts aside the large and less wieldy symphonic version in favour
of the original jazz-band arrangement that Ferde Grofe made for the works 1924 premiere, given by Gershwin
himself with the Paul Whiteman Band. Its a more intimate version, says Grosvenor, very colourful and
extremely interesting it even includes a banjo, which adds a unique sound.
As for the two French concertos, theyre very much part of a personal crusade: Ive often felt that the French piano repertoire is underrated or that its judged as no more than opulent mood-music or pictures in sound, but I ve adored the Ravel and Saint-Saens concertos from the first time I heard them.
The CD also features Benjamin Grosvenor playing three solo encores, one from each composer represented.
For Saint-Saens, hes chosen Leopold Godowskys deliciously free transcription of The Swan, the famous
cello solo from The Carnival of the Animals. Ravel is represented by a brief Prelude that he wrote in 1913 as
a sight-reading test for students at the Paris Conservatoire. And, to end the CD, there s Gershwins immortal
song Love Walked In in a piano transcription by his friend, the eccentric and eclectic Australian-born
pianist composer Percy Grainger, who created it specifically to serve as an encore for his own performances of
Gershwins Piano Concerto and Rhapsody in Blue.