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
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
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
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