Gramophone Awards 2013 Winner - Instrumental
Steven Osborne has become one of the most valuable pianists recording today. His recent complete Rachmaninov Preludes release was critically acclaimed as the greatest modern version since Ashkenazy. Now he turns to further cornerstones of the Russian repertoire in this recording of Musorgsky’s Pictures from an Exhibition (a work which has been in Osborne’s concert repertoire for many years), and two sets of Prokofiev’s miniatures.
Musorgsky’s masterpiece is one of the most popular programmatic works of the 19th century. Yet it is also a great pianistic challenge, with the spectacular textures of the climactic movement ‘The Great Gate of Kiev’ requiring the highest technical accomplishments.
David Fanning writes of Prokofiev’s Visions fugitives: ‘Prokofiev supplies snapshots of his most characteristic moods—sometimes grotesque, sometimes incantatory and mystical, sometimes simply poetic, sometimes aggressively assertive, sometimes so delicately poised as to allow the performer and the listener to make up their own minds.’ Osborne’s subtle, yet brilliant use of colour and characterization makes him the ideal performer of this set. Sarcasms—as befits the title—is an experimental, provocative work, performed by Osborne with biting humour.
here, once more, is an ideal blend of fidelity to the score, with a subtle and distinctive rather than overbearing musical personality. In the Musorgsky everything is as musicianly as it is technically immaculate....in the more weighty numbers, there is power without brutality so that what so easily degenerates into a mere uproar is so finely graded that you forget the essentially percussive nature of the writing. Gramophone
Throughout this enthralling and warmly recorded performance, Osborne maximises colour and atmosphere, yet manages to achieve a freshness of approach without recourse to idiosyncratic mannerisms. Every movement is brilliantly characterised as a result of Osborne's imaginative approach to keyboard texture.
Following the piano score while listening to Osborne’s recording, one will see that the pianist meticulously carries out Mussorgsky’s instructions as to tempo, pedalling, and dynamics. However, more than that, he characterizes each of the movements very well, too. MusicWeb