Review: Benjamin Grosvenor & The Oxford Philomusica at the Aylesbury Waterside

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Even with a rumbling hangover that has become more menacing every day over half term, I still really enjoyed Benjamin Grosvenor playing Grieg’s romantic Piano Concerto in A Minor at the Aylesbury Waterside last night.

The first thing I should say is why not more people there? It was far from packed, and those who were there were mostly in their fifties and above – a real shame, because Benjamin Grosvenor is still a teenager at 19 (and looks a few years younger than that) and would have really connected with younger audiences. Grosvenor started playing the piano at 6, ingested some Precocious pellets somewhere along the way, and by 11 was keyboard winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year. Since then it’s just been recording contracts and auditoriums all the way. Check out his accolades here http://www.benjamingrosvenor.co.uk/about

No surprise then that Grosvenor is mesmerising to listen to. He made the concerto seem perfectly effortless, as if he was absently playing Chopsticks while the Oxford Philomusica orchestra (Oxford University’s resident professional orchestra) carved away behind him. He barely broke into a sweat and just sat patiently waiting for his turn to play, dabbing his forehead occasionally when the spotlights became too much for him. His touch on the Steinway was just incredible, his runs, trills and arpeggios feather-light and delicate over the keys (hey cynics, I can say this stuff – I play the piano too OK?!)

The other piece of music on the night was Carl Orff’s scenic cantata Carmina Burana which I didn’t know at all but it made me jump out of my seat because it was LOUD, featuring the full The Oxford Philomusica, plus the London Symphony Chorus, local children’s choir (last night’s was from Wing) and three soloists – soprano (a superb Elena Xanthoudaikis) , countertenor and baritone. The first of the 24 songs was ‘O Fortuna’ (better known these days as the Champions League theme tune – how sad is that?!). I’ve You Tubed it here because it really does sound incredible.

The next performance is at the Barbican Centre in London tomorrow (Tuesday 12 June), and then back to the home of the Oxford Philomusica at The Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford on Thursday (14 June). Definitely worth going to if you’re classically inclined, looking for an audience-friendly program – or want to encourage your kids to practise more!
Sheldonian tickets £37/£26/£17.50/£10. Box office 01865 980 980.
The Sheldonian Theatre, Broad St, Oxford OX1 3AZ.

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