The Barbican has resumed its livestreamed concert series, announcing a programme of events that runs until July, with audiences to be admitted to the performances when regulations allow. A recital by the pianist Benjamin Grosvenor launched the season; it was immaculately filmed and streamed in superb sound, a model of what an online concert can be.
The hour-long programme was framed with a pair of transcriptions – Liszt’s version of Schubert’s Ave Maria to begin and, as an encore, Leopold Godowsky’s take on The Swan from Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals. Both miniatures underlined the clarity and easy preciseness of Grosvenor’s technique, while the substance came from two of the pinnacles of the piano repertory. There was no faulting his playing in either Chopin’s B minor Sonata or Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit, but something nevertheless was missing in both, making the performances less engaging than they ought to have been.
The Chopin sonata seemed distinctly detached; it’s more wracked and intense in its opening movement, more personal and regretful in the Largo, than this performance ever suggested, though the brilliance of the scherzo and the finale were some compensation. Gaspard certainly dazzled too – Grosvenor made light of the extreme technical challenges, but the dark recesses of the three pieces were generally avoided, especially in the final Scarbo, which is a much more threatening piece than he suggested.
Between Chopin and Ravel came Alberto Ginastera’s freewheeling Danzas Argentinas, their dissonant nods towards modernism masking a sentimental heart; Grosvenor’s performance caught that ambiguity exactly.