Is it just us, or do you also brace yourself for a minor existential crisis every time you gear up to read a story about a child prodigy? They all begin in a similar vein... While you could barely wipe yourself, this precocious child had sold out their first gallery show, composed their first aria, or [insert accomplishment you will never achieve here]. And to top it all off, most of the kids seem like precocious little brats, don't they?
And yet we have no bad feelings whatsoever toward pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, whose inspirational relationship to the instrument stretches far beyond his talent and ambition. Grosvenor brings a depth to his practice that is hard to find in full-grown artists, let alone over-achieving teenagers. A recent CNN profile described Grosvenor's early life, growing up with little interest in the instrument, although his mother taught piano classes. It was only when his friends picked up the hobby that Grosvenor got a tad competitive and decided he would catch up to their skill level, and then some. At 11 years old he won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition and last year he became the youngest ever soloist at BBC's classical music fest, Prom.
He performed again at the event this year to reviews that praised not only his skill but his spirit. The Independent's Jessica Duched gushed that Grosvenor has a "modest air and no pretentions. Instead, the energy of his virtuosity goes where it needs to, straight into the piano." Guy Damann of The Guardian chimed in on the power of his performance: "All were quite silent, listening open mouthed to a red-shirted student pianist make light of the dense tangle of notes into which Leopold Godowski saw fit to weave the melody of Saint-Saens’s Swan. Audience and orchestra alike consumed in rapt delight, and the cavernous Albert Hall seemed to shrink to the proportions of a private salon." Pretty high praise for a guy who can't yet pop a bottle of champagne to his own success.
Since most people Grosvenors are tuning into college radio or their local Top 40 station, Grosvenor finds most of his fans are eligible for a senior citizen discount. He presented his theory on the public's waning interest in classical music to The Standard: “The fault also lies with listeners’ expectations. Today people think they need to know something to appreciate classical music. But they don’t. All they need to do is to listen.”
What really sets Grosvenor apart from his contemporaries is his insightful interpretations of the pieces themselves. "There are really two sides to playing the piano, I suppose," he told CNN. "The ability to just play the notes and the ability to find meaning in them." While we swooned over the perfect harmony of his old soul and youthful imagination, a couple lines down we were awakened by a line only uttered by a true child prodigy: "By the end of the concert you look back at that and think, 'How silly, that was quite easy.'"
Check out our slideshow of other astounding art prodigies below.