Rachmaninov: 24 Preludes CD
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Prélude op.3 n°2 - 10 Préludes op.23 - 13 Préludes op.32 / Steven Osborne, piano
Outstanding Rachmaninov playing of acute perception, discretion and poetic sensibility, limpid, powerful and luminous in equal measure --BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
There are few pianists who offer such range and depth of palette: not even Ashkenazy's seminal reading --GRAMOPHONE
For a truly spellbinding modern account, Osborne now holds the winning ticket --INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW
Top Customer Reviews
That's one extreme. The other is the delicate treble pianissimo sequences, which are fairly numerous. Here the sound is remote and rather lifeless. I suppose I should emphasise that I am being so critical because this is a recording from as recently as 2008. If it had been from 1968 or even 1988 I would have been more tolerant and made more allowance, but by 2000 we had got used to far better sound than this. What I find really frustrating is that I more than slightly suspect that I may be hearing a pianist out of the ordinary here. What constitutes `ordinary'?Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Steven Osborne is a major keyboard talent who also has enjoyed the wonderful production values of Hyperion, a label which consistently produces exceptionally engineered piano recordings. This one, recorded in August 2008 in Henry Wood Hall in London, is a delight to the ear and mind and should please both audiophiles and connoisseurs of the grand piano. If Osborne does not replicate the manic narrative of Sviatoslav Richter, the feverish pyrotechnics of Weissenberg, or the classical poise of Sergio Fiorentino, he consciously acknowledges that spectrum but steers a middle course. His renditions cover the territory and stand up to repeated listening, and although the Scotland-born Osborne is understandably a darling of the UK press, critical acclaim from US reviewers has likewise greeted this disc.
The key to Osborne's performance may be his thoughtful emphasis on the variety of expression contained in these 23 preludes. This recital is no unremitting sequence of gloom, or railing against it, or lilac perfumed memories. Nor does he eschew Rachmaninoff's longing for a vanished landscape in a world newly wracked by revolution, industrialized war, and displaced souls. His strength is in projecting the sonorities of these works while not overemphasizing or understating the manic emotions of this composer's displaced soul.
North American listeners should seek out Osborne's recordings. His defining characteristic is an affinity for sonority and structure. I am reminded of the playing of Ivan Moravec, the great Czech artist. Osborne's Debussy and Ravel solo discs have earned critical approval. Moreover, he has a streak of adventure: his recording of piano concertos of Tovey and MacKenzie is a real find, scores that should appeal to those who love the keyboard language of Brahms (and the highland atmospherics of Max Bruch). A versatility is also revealed in his chamber music collaborations.
That’s one extreme. The other is the delicate treble pianissimo sequences, which are fairly numerous. Here the sound is remote and rather lifeless. I suppose I should emphasise that I am being so critical because this is a recording from as recently as 2008. If it had been from 1968 or even 1988 I would have been more tolerant and made more allowance, but by 2000 we had got used to far better sound than this. What I find really frustrating is that I more than slightly suspect that I may be hearing a pianist out of the ordinary here. What constitutes ‘ordinary’? Think back to what Horowitz, Michelangeli and Serkin had to say about that matter.
When Horowitz said that the generation of players contemporary with Steven Osborne could play very accurately but that 10 minutes of any of them was enough for him he was making it clear that he felt a lack of individuality among them. ‘At least I sound different’ he said. Michelangeli was very rude indeed, expressing an extraordinary opinion that animals were better endowed than these players were in the matter of instinct. Serkin was rather more diplomatic, but it’s not hard to read a certain implication into his emphasis on distinct personality as his prime requirement. Were they right, these giants of the recent past? Were they off-beam or were they just exaggerating a bit? My own uncomfortable feeling is that they had more of a point than I like to acknowledge.
And that is what is bothering me about this recorded recital. Behind the sound I suspect I hear some real individuality that I am no longer so used to as I once was. In fact the recording of the first number, the hackneyed and plagiarised C# minor, is not too bad, and the torrential middle section has a suggestion (dare I say?) of Horowitz about it. Two tracks later and we have the B flat number, where as I say my recollection reverted to Richter. What these, tracks 14-17 (for instance) and the last number of all have is a feeling of lack of inhibition, a sense of abandon (under control of course) that leads me to hope that I might be getting near the end of the rainbow. Forgetting suggestions of Horowitz, Richter or any of them, does Steven Osborne at last give us the elusive quality of a fully distinctive personality? I wish the recorded sound had given me more opportunity to know what I think about that.
There are many different moods in these 24 works, and what is at least unmistakable is that Osborne finds a thoughtful and sensitive answer to all the questions they pose. I am not really minded to argue the pros and cons of this or that interpretative detail, because the thoughts that this disc fills me with are not matters of detail. As with the sound, the performances give rise to a wide range of opinions. If you have a taste for hyperbole in the way the opinions are expressed you may derive some enlightenment, or at least some entertainment, from certain reviews, together with their associated comments, on the US site. One way or another I do not feel like trying to settle any of these arguments beyond indicating in a general way what impressions the disc leaves me with. What I am in no doubt at all about is that I am going to be looking for Steven Osborne’s work with a keener interest than usual from now on.