Jeffrey Grice : Events : Performances : Reviews : November 28 1996

Wellington, Nov 28 1996

Grice enhances reputation

Jeffrey Grice, piano, Brahms: Sonata in F minor, Opus 5. Debussy: Reverie, D'un Cahier d'esquisses, L'Isle Joyeuse, Clair de Lune.

EXPATRIATE NEW Zealand pianist Jeffrey Grice's visits home are all too rare. I have heard him only in short lunchtime recitals such as this, but he deserves to be heard in a full-length recital.

He is certainly well thought of - enough to be invited to give a master-class at Victoria University on Monday night. This recital should enhance his reputation.

Aspects of his pianism will not be to everybody's taste (some are not to mine) but he produces a distinctive sound a hallmark of only the very best - and there is no doubting the integrity of his often very individual approach. To put it differently: he's not dull.

His reading of Brahms' monumental, epic third sonata was big and bold. The heroic first movement was particularly impressive, with Grice revelling in the quasi-orchestral textures and sumptuous chording that are so much a feature of the young Brahms' piano writing. Less successfully projected was the opening mood of the second movement - this, I think. is more fragile than Grice suggested. But the big central build-up was finely handled, the final two chords beautifully weighted before being swept away by the exhilarating rhythmical verve of the scherzo. This was played with bounce and joie de vivre. The finale was over-driven for my taste with the final pages running just out of control.

Grice pays particular attention to the bass and middle registers - this can produce unusual and rewarding perspectives on the music. He will often emphasise inner voices in the tenor register - it is characteristic of the golden age of romantic piano to do this, but with Grice it can sound over-emphatic and self-conscious. Another feature of his playing is his distinctive pedaling. Over-pedalling perhaps? I certainly I prefer to bear the first main theme in Debussy' s L'Isle Joyeuse more cleanly anticipated and less swamped and I dislike the thomping that accompanies the pedal changing when he gets excited.

Apart from the above question marks, I enjoyed this recital very much. Grice is not afraid to take risks in performance, and anyone who can attack the final pages of L'Isle Joyeuse so fearlessly and with such elan is a talent to be reckoned with.

- Tim Bridgewater in The Dominion
November 26 1999


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