The opening Bach Partita was notable for the clear articulation and precision of his playing – even the fastest lines always distinct, with never a blur – and for the variety of colour which he brought to each of these old dance forms. Chopin’s 3rd Sonata followed, played with breath-taking brilliance. Benjamin’s astonishing virtuosity was never displayed for mere effect, but always seemed subservient to the musical demands being made by Chopin – a pianist’s composer if ever there were one.
After the interval, three Spanish works by Albeniz received stylishly authentic performances, in which the flavours and peculiar rhythms of that region, with its flamenco undertones – were never far from the surface.
The recital ended with various works by Chopin and Liszt – two composers renowned (or notorious) for the technical demands they make. As with all truly great exponents, Benjamin made light of such impossible difficulties, ending with a truly triumphant Rhapsodie Espagnole. A cheering audience was rewarded with two encores – a hushed Chopin prelude and a barnstorming Boogie-woogie which literally brought the audience to its feet in a standing ovation.
Oswestry has rarely experienced such a musical evening, and, pleasingly, Ben himself is looking forward to returning at a future date.
Tickets for the next concert in February – violinist Tasmin Little and the English Chamber Orchestra – are already sold out. For details of the remaining concerts (some tickets still available) please ring Mrs Grice (01691 681135).