It’s a pleasure watching Benjamin Grosvenor’s artistry blossom.
When he played his first Prom – three years ago, at nineteen – he still came across like a prodigy, with a refined technique but lacking weight; since then his playing has acquired increasing authority. For the first of his two Proms this year he would in effect play two concertos – Chopin’s Concerto No 1 in E minor, and Cesar Franck’s Symphonic Variations, which amounts to a concerto in all but name - and the Chopin was a delight from start to finish.
The lyricism in the opening movement was cleanly rendered, with a touch both muscular and delicate; his playing of the Romance – sensitively supported by the BBC Philharmonic under Gianandrea Noseda – had a singing grace. He realised Chopin’s moment of supreme magic – descending figurations hanging like crystals in the air – to perfection, and his pacing of the Rondo was masterly. The Franck was not quite so successful, however: the playfulness which had inspired Frederick Ashton’s charming ballet was muted, and at times Noseda pushed the pace so fast that Grosvenor had his work cut out just keeping up.
This was altogether a fascinating Prom, beginning with an arresting First World War rarity, Elegia eroica, by Alfredo Casella, and ending with Saint-Saens’ extraordinary 'Organ' Symphony with David Goode presiding at the great beast’s controls.