Press

Selected reviews of Steven Osborne’s live performances:



Feldman/Crumb recital, Barbican, London
There was barely a fidget or a cough. Nothing disturbed the concentration. The whole experience was a kind of enchantment.
The Guardian, 5 June 2016

This was a remarkable concert, thought-provoking on one level but heart-breakingly touching on another.
seenandheard-international.com

Few present-day pianists have continued to expand their repertoire, once their reputation was established, with the zeal of Steven Osborne – his advocacy of American experimental piano music no less impressive than the care which had audibly gone into programming this recital.
classicalsource.com




Recital, St John's Smith Square, London
You would never compliment a pianist by saying he made all the composers on his programme sound like one another. But in this recital, Steven Osborne made Schubert, Debussy, Crumb and Rachmaninov seem as though they were different faces of the same musical entity. Pieces grew out of the context of the one before; Osborne’s playing sought colour and texture above display or drama, but not at their expense.

There was certainly drama in his two Schubert Impromptus, D935 Nos 1 and 4. The first began urgently and firmly, as if Osborne wanted to push through to the other side of the keyboard; this gave way to, and eventually intertwined with, a major-key passage that was beautifully sustained, with barely a ripple on the surface.

This sense of stillness laid the ground for the nuanced colour washes Osborne created so effectively in five pieces by Debussy, especially in the second set of three Images: here was a distant bell tower or moonlit ruined temple as painted by Turner rather than Monet. There were stronger, more defined outlines in Masques, with its strumming, guitar-like figures, and in the contrasting textures of L’Isle Joyeuse.

The discovery of the night for many will have been George Crumb’s 1983 Processional. Its framework of gently pulsing clusters of notes could have been created by Debussy; the percussive flicks at either extreme of the keyboard, the gong-like sonorities, and the way in which the pulse continued in our heads even when the pianist played something else – all these were Crumb’s own.

Finally, Rachmaninov: seven of his Études-tableaux, Op 33 and 39, then the Prelude Op 23 No 4 as an encore, a perfect fit. Osborne’s playing could be ardent and muscular, and Op 39 No 5 especially was orchestral in its scope, but at the heart of these performances was a care for colour and a sense of control that put the works across more effectively than any amount of grandstanding.

The Guardian, 4 February 2016  *****




As queues stretch across the Royal Academy’s courtyard for its Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse exhibition, Impressionism seems at the forefront of the public imagination. Some of Debussy’s musical equivalents formed the centrepiece of Steven Osborne’s recital. He started this sequence with Masques and caught its disconcerting Scaramouche-like quality remarkably well with its agitated dance, thrumming repeated notes and odd stretches of inserted melody. He then went on to deliver the second Set of Debussy’s Images, homage to pure sensation and vividly pictorial. Osborne presented each with an incredible range of colour allied to a feeling for musical line. L’Isle joyeuse, prompted supposedly by Watteau’s great painting L’Embarquement pour Cythère, is more obviously voluptuous with its lilting rhythm and irregular passagework for the left-hand. It was played not only as an explosion of virtuosity but also captured a sense of transported enchantment.

The evening had started with two of Schubert’s Impromptus (from D935), both in F-minor. In the first, the brooding main theme was set against the warmly embellished second with sensitivity and lack of mannerism. No.4, with its darting runs and rippling scales leading to a brief if emphatic coda was thrown off with aplomb.

The recital’s second half began with George Crumb’s Processional, a twelve-minute piece that eschews the extended techniques this composer is known for and perhaps suggests the processional of nature. It is distinguished by a regular if not obsessive pulsing of chords. Processional is not too far from Debussy’s soundworld and is immediately appealing.

Rachmaninov’s Etude-tableaux demonstrate his interest in non-specific imagery and are mordant, terse, visionary and poetically simple. Opus 33 was written when he was focused on large-scale pieces and seems to compress grand ideas into concise forms. Opus 39 was the last music that Rachmaninov wrote before he left Russia in 1917 and are couched in more cosmopolitan terms. Osborne was throughout attentive to nuance and detail without undue emphasis. Technical complexity was delivered without it being externally imposed. Whether gently agitated, tender, consoling, plaintive or agile – or when pianism was pushed to its limits – Osborne was true to the composer, catching the visionary glow behind the virtuoso facade.

Osborne offered an encore of further Rachmaninov, the Prelude in D (Opus 23/4), given a reading of gentle nostalgia that was a fitting end to a remarkable evening.

classicalsource.com, 3 February 2016


An elegant venue with a fine acoustic and a beautiful Steinway piano, coupled with one of the UK's most gifted pianists active today made for an evening of music making of the highest calibre

bachtrack.com 3 Feb 2016  *****



Recital, Perth Concert Hall

There was Debussy, so still and quiet that time seemed to stop; poetry in Schubert so exquisitely nuanced it transcended the ordinary; and a broadening out in the second half that found sensuousness and passion in Rachmaninov, but never so exorbitant as to lose the overall mystical calm of the afternoon....

...What a world of sound and colour this pianist conjured up. Rarely do you witness such textural detail, so delicately balanced. This was a masterclass in the true beauty of pianism, delivered with an intelligent and instinctive musicality.

The Scotsman, 1 February 2016  *****


Recital, Lammermuir Festival
His sensitive, exquisitely blended and balanced playing almost goes without saying, but Osborne’s masterstoke here was in his big vision of his programme: he grew and grew from the softly spoken Moment musical through increasingly impassioned Impromptus, D935, opening up huge reserves of energy and building to a fiery final F minor Impromptu. Schumann said that those four Impromptus formed a full-blown sonata – in Osborne’s hands, all five of his Schubert pieces became one grand, overarching work that seemed to chart a journey from reticence into tumultuous, unsettling vigour.

It was a spellbinding achievement – and it set the tone magnificently for Osborne’s vivid, fantastical set of Rachmaninov Études-tableaux after the interval (the first of which, Op33 No1 in the same F minor, bridged the break beautifully and seemed to pick up where Osborne’s Schubert had left off). He never forgot that, even if the composer was reluctant to say what they described, these pieces are pictures in music, with granitic chords in Op39 No7, a singing, folk-like naivety to Op33 No8, and a beautifully rippling layered texture in Op39 No2. Osborne’s concluding march – Op39 No9 – ended his remarkable recital in fire and fury – save for a limpid, caressing encore of Debussy’s Prélude Canope, which sent us back to the troubled introspection of the opening. It was a provocative, magical evening, and a fine beginning for Osborne in his new role as the Lammermuir Festival’s patron.
The Scotsman, 19 September 2015




Recital, Bath Festival
Steven Osborne is artist-in-residence at this year’s Bath international music festival, and his concert at the Guildhall was the first of a series of three, which will culminate in Messiaen’s Vingt Regards. This opener of Russian music confirmed his ever-increasing stature as one of the very finest of pianists.

Vast technical command is balanced by penetrating insight and an expressivity that seems to derive from a more than usually empathetic instinct for the nature of the composers in question. The relaxed atmosphere of a morning recital found him introducing Rachmaninov and Mussorgsky with a warmth and gentle self-deprecation that endeared him doubly to his audience.

The piece Osborne played by way of prelude to the fireworks to come, Schubert’s Moment Musical, the Andantino in A flat, D780, had a meditative quality, poised between philosophical resignation and a more searching angst, beautifully realised. It guided the ear to listen beyond the pyrotechnics, brilliant as they were, of his selection of Rachmaninov’s Etudes Tableaux, Ops. 33 and 39. Osborne described arcs of melody with a quiet intensity that matched Schubert, while appearing to make light of the colossal virtuosity where passion and despair rage away.

Most satisfyingly, the sequence of studies had been assembled in such a way as to form an audible parallel with Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, the single work of the second half. In this, Osborne’s exploration of resonating sonorities again revealed his instinct for colour and crystalline texture, but also for the dark harmonies that make Catacombs so chilling. At the time, Bydlo felt a bit too much of a steamroller but, by the end, it stood as the wholly logical counterbalance to the final movements and the Great Gate of Kiev’s glorious explosion of bells.
Guardian, 9 May 2015


Emperor Concerto, Mostly Mozart Festival, New York
With electric, blazing pianism, Mr. Osborne seemed to be trying to dispel any notions of lofty grandeur or imperiousness suggested by the work’s bogus subtitle and bring the imagination and daring of Beethoven’s conception back to the fore.
New York Times, 4 August 2014



Schubert recital, Mostly Mozart Festival, New York
... he not only gave compelling, sometimes melting performances but also spoke feelingly about the music, apologizing for his Scottish tendency to speak fast. Especially to the point was his comment on Schubert’s penchant for toggling between major and minor modes in the impromptus, evoking “those half-lights of emotion that are never stable.”
Beautifully spoken, beautifully played.
New York Times, 4 August 2014




Schubert/Beethoven recital, Cheltenham Festival

Some pianists attempt to cushion the impact of the Hammerklavier, to civilise it, to put some distance between their performance and the white heat of its invention. Osborne didn't. The way he plunged into the opening movement could have been reckless: things did seem a bit precarious when the music suddenly veered into a harmonic world that not even Beethoven would have contemplated, but the resulting edge-of-the-seat excitement was worth all the risks. Nothing was to be sensationalised, as Osborne's searching performance of the slow movement showed, and when the sense of pushing to extremes inevitably returned for the final fugue, with its teetering textures, starbursts of trills and cataclysmic chords, the whole sonata came together in an uncompromisingly radical way.
The Guardian, 3 July 2014





Messiaen Turangalila Symphony, LSO/Nott

Steven Osborne’s piano-playing was some of the finest I have heard in this work.
The Times, 1 July 2014





Beethoven 1st piano concerto, BBCSSO/Manze

Osborne was almost incredible in Beethoven's First Piano Concerto. Forget about the oft-stated Mozart influence: every note of this was pure Beethoven, from the wit, strength, playfulness and hilarity, to the heart-stopping beauty of the slow movement and the explosive plunge from the first cadenza of the concerto into the recapitulation. It was one of the most thrilling performances I have heard from Osborne.
The Herald, 19 May 2014


Steven Osborne brought to Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 1 his distinctive brand of musical vitality and spontaneity, a fresh and spritely view on a popular work, and a dash of whimsy in his own cadenza, which hauled Beethoven’s motifs into uncharted territory, and amazingly found its way back home.
The Scotsman, 17 May 2014


Beethoven recital, Wigmore Hall

The audience, as one, was agog.... Osborne's attack is ferocious and fearless, his tenderness beyond words. His self appears subsumed in service to the composer. This is the best it gets.
Observer, 6 October 2013


The sonatas were startlingly vivid. Both were thrillingly launched: the Waldstein with great technical prowess and almost unnerving speed; Op 111 with a defiant hauteur entirely appropriate for what is, in the opinion of many, one of the defining statements of classical music. Yet what will perhaps linger longest in the memory are those moments of calm profundity, which speak volumes. The Waldstein's brief adagio had a disturbing austerity, ensuring that the opening statement of the rondo came as the most immense emotional release. The way in which the Op 111 arietta and its variations flowed imperturbably yet inexorably out of silence was breathtaking – poetry in sound, absolutely astonishing.
Guardian, 2 October 2013



Britten concerto, CBSO/Volkov

Osborne has absolutely nailed the work's mixture of heartless exhibitionism and brittle ebullience, and he played it with glittering panache and awesome brilliance.
Guardian, 7 February 2013



Sutton Coldfield recital

The first half paired Nikolai Medtner’s Sonata Romantica with Rachmaninov’s near-contemporary Corelli Variations. Osborne approached both works with the same intellectual command that makes his Messiaen so compelling, pacing both works’ extended structures with a sense of absolute purpose. Climaxes were gauged with steely assurance, and accelerandihad a massive inevitability.

The music’s surface, though, was limpid, gentle and expressive – which didn’t prevent Osborne finding parallels with Prokofiev and Stravinsky in the scherzo and finale of Medtner’s supposedly conservative Sonata, or leaving Rachmaninov’s final statement of Corelli’s theme hanging in quietly devastating solitude. All this was achieved with a minimum of physical display or theatricality. In the second subject of the Rachmaninov Sonata, he seemed almost to be stroking the music out of the keys.

And yet in the closing bars of that same Sonata – where Rachmaninov, eight months before the First World War, up-ends the whole dazzling jewel-box of virtuoso pianism in one almighty final starburst - Osborne showed that he can storm the heavens with the best of them. To say that it left this listener breathless might sound like a cliché. On this occasion, it was the literal truth.
Birmingham Post, 21 December 2012



Melbourne recital

While there is no denying the extraordinary technique Osborne displayed throughout this program, perhaps even more distinguishing was his grasp of the structure of these great works. His ability to convey the overarching architecture of the pieces remains an enduring impression of a marvellous performance.
The Age, 6 December 2012


Beethoven 4th piano concerto, BBCSSO/Manze

Osborne, who here launched a Beethoven cycle with the BBCSSO, underlined his stature as a musician of profound individuality and invention.
The Guardian, 28 October 2012



Fauré Piano Quartet no.2, Cottiers Theatre, Glasgow
A spellbinding and revelatory experience, characterised by full-on, full-blooded playing all round.
 The Herald, 4 June 2012




Stravinsky works for piano and orchestra, BBCSSO/Volkov
[Osborne] was in awesome form, and the SSO with Volkov in powerful alliance as Linlithgow's finest pelted joyfully through the Capriccio with its wonderful baroque second movement, the pointillistic Movements for piano and orchestra not remotely scary in the assured hands of Volkov and Osborne. The party was rounded off with a blindingly bouncy account of the Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments: a storming close to a stunning afternoon.

The Herald 18 May 2012




Washington recital
You’d be hard pressed to find two pieces written by countrymen within the same three-year period that are more different than Prokofiev’s “Visions Fugitives” and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Sonata No. 2. Prokofiev’s 20 fleetingly vivid snapshots and Rachmaninoff’s romantic indulgences formed the second half of Steven Osborne’s stunning recital at the Phillips Collection on Sunday, and the Scottish-born pianist retooled himself to become the ideal purveyor of each.

Many of the Prokofiev movements clock in under a minute — barely time to register that something new is happening. But Osborne moved through the set with apt characterizations that were all transparency and delicacy, as butterflylike twittering in one vignette led to the pompous posturing in the next and angular jauntiness led to moments of wry despondency.

But it was a big-statement Osborne who sat down at the keyboard to address the rigors of the Rachmaninoff piece (in Vladi­mir Horowitz’s revision), full of the passion and the drive needed to gobble up waves of romantic effusion. This Osborne was a master of momentum and color, a wielder of power and a sure navigator through huge landscapes, and his Rachmaninoff was both coherent and daringly free.

The first half of the program, however, which paired Beethoven’s Sonata in C-sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2 (“Moonlight”) with Ravel’s “Gaspard de la Nuit,” focused on their similarities: a progression from quiet self-reflection to ferocious activity. Osborne’s literal and restrained reading of the Beethoven movement brought out the uncliched aspects of its beauty as did his light touch in Ravel’s first-movement “Ondine.” His technical mastery allowed the Beethoven presto finale and the full force of Scarbo’s malevolence in Ravel’s third movement to build inexorably.

Washington Post, 12 March 2012




Miami recital
Osborne is a poet of the piano. While capable of the kind of keyboard thunder that wins competitions, Osborne is an introspective, thoughtful musician. Acclaimed for his many recordings on the Hyperion label, Osborne eschews interpretive orthodoxy, bringing a fresh approach to the most familiar repertoire. Musically intelligent and intuitive, Osborne’s performances avoid eccentricity or exaggeration.

Few scores are more familiar or overplayed than Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata; yet Osborne offered a refreshingly original traversal that avoided cliché. The softness and singing line of the Adagio sostenuto glowed with the romance of a Chopin nocturne. Osborne’s clipped phrasing and detailed inner voicing made the Allegretto sound freshly minted. Attacking the Presto agitato at breakneck speed with bold dynamic contrasts, Osborne imbued the finale with incendiary energy. There was a formal, granite-like rigor in Osborne’s interpretation.

Ravel’s luminous Gaspard de la nuit showcased Osborne’s vast color palette and controlled dynamics. The soft, caressing opening of Ondine presaged a performance of sweeping power, romance and impressionistic mist given equal prominence. Osborne vividly realized the ominous tolling of the bells in Le gibet. With each repetition, new timbres and undertones emerged in a miniature tone poem. Scarbo is considered one of the most technically difficult works ever penned for the keyboard. Osborne tossed off the hand-crossings and pyrotechnics with zest and flair. The speed, delicacy and spontaneity of Osborne’s performance imbued Ravel’s portrait of the mischievous dwarf with charm as well as flashy finger work. There was an almost improvisatory, in-the-moment quality to Osborne’s traversal.

The complete cycle of Prokofiev’s Visions fugitives is rarely played but Osborne offered all 20 vignettes. Unlike many pianists who approach Prokofiev’s music in an aggressive manner, Osborne emphasized, the lightness and playful naiveté of the miniatures. The whimsical march of the third piece was conveyed with a deft touch. In the final Lento, Osborne’s ruminative version sustained the moody depth beneath the surface glow of Prokofiev’s writing. As a demonstration of rock-solid pianistic technique, Osborne’s reading of the entire cycle was outstanding, a textbook demonstration of precision and musicality.

Rachmaninoff’s Piano Sonata No. 2 is an unabashedly romantic showpiece. Offering his own version of Vladimir Horowitz’s conflation of the original 1913 score and Rachmaninoff’s 1931 revision, Osborne drew an almost symphonic richness from the keyboard, the bold bursts of color and huge sonority always perfectly controlled. The opening Allegro agitato was spun with grandeur, the musical pulse inexorable from first note to last. While the romantic melody and cinematic glamour of the second movement sang in rhapsodic strophes, Osborne also conveyed the sadness of the music’s dark undertones. The fierce power of the Allegro molto finale swept all before it, Osborne’s hands flying across the piano in a blur of notes. The quiet beauty of the contrasting central episode was achingly beautiful, Osborne splendidly synthesizing the dual facets of Rachmaninoff’s musical persona.

South Florida Classical Review, 7 March 2012



Vancouver recital
Rachmaninov’s prolix Second Sonata rounded out the program, a work that in lesser hands could sound stentorian and trite. The Osborne paradox is that while he avoids much of the hackneyed rhetoric of so-called expressive playing, his ultimate effect is thrilling and powerfully emotional. Vancouver critic of an earlier era Ian Docherty once described one of Rachmaninov’s own performances to me in similar words: the dichotomy between Rachmaninov’s impassive,“ramrod straight” (ID’s exact words) demeanor and the extreme emotionality of his playing were hard to reconcile but part of his power and authority.

I’m minded to think the ecstatic Sunday afternoon audience was treated to a similar experience.


Vancouver Sun, 5 March 2012




Ravel complete solo piano music, programme #1, Perth
Osborne is an incredibly seasoned and mature musician, but I think he has reached a new level of mastery. I have no idea how to describe it, but it was all over his glorious recital on Tuesday.

The Scotsman, 1 March 2012




Ravel complete solo piano music, programme #1, Wigmore Hall

The Sonatine and the utterly different Gaspard de la Nuit had occupied the first half – the Sonatine neoclassically poised and restrained until the animé finale, when Osborne showed his teeth for the first time. Gaspard built slowly and implacably too, so that the fierceness with which the climax of the final Scarbo arrived was as overwhelming as it was unexpected....

If anything, though, the climax of the programme's final work was even more fiercely worked. The solo-piano version of La Valse was a preliminary stage in the composition of what became one of Ravel's greatest orchestral works. The cataclysm with which it all ends – the sound of European civilisation disintegrating – may not be as colourful in the keyboard version, but Osborne made sure it was devastatingly potent.

Guardian, 24 February, 2012




Shostakovich piano concertos: RSNO/Deneve

And as for Osborne’s dazzlingly lucid performances of Shostakovich’s two concertos: have you ever heard such pianistic wit, steely confidence, playing of vivid character and, with trumpeter John Gracie in the First Concerto, puckish humour? An exhilarating concert.

The Herald, 5 December 2011


Steven Osborne, often glancing wry smirks at the orchestra behind him, performed both concertos with supreme authority, parrying mischievously with solo trumpeter John Gracie in the First, while in the Second, whipping up the storm of irreverence that is Shostakovich’s boisterous response to the beguiling nostalgia of the heavenly Andante.

The Scotsman, 6 December 2011



Mozart piano concerto K415: Sydney SO/Ashkenazy
Steven Osborne's nuanced tone colours and subtle dynamic shadings infused almost every note. His restrained ornamentation and shapely phrasing created a beguiling slow movement, while his virtuosity in the outer movements was stunning.

The Autralian, 20 May 2011




Mozart piano concerto K415: Sydney SO/Ashkenazy

Steven Osborne gave a beautifully natural, musically shaped performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto in C major, K. 415. This was fluid, finely detailed, intelligent playing - small scale, unpretentious and focused on the simple aim of expounding Mozart's musical thought with clarity and grace, where any hint of technical display would have simply seemed a lapse of taste.

Brisbane Times 21 May 2011

 

Britten piano concerto: BBCSSO/Sinaisky

Steven Osborne unleashed a spectacular performance of Britten’s Piano Concerto, packed to the roof with fun, wit, fireworks, dazzling pianism (it sounded as though he was having a ball) some aching lyricism in the slow movement and a zesty, Prokofiev-like bite. A cracking piece, brilliantly played.

The Herald, 20 October 2010




Rachmaninov piano concerto no.1: Ulster Orchestra/Paul Watkins, at the Proms

Steven Osborne’s luminous performance of Rachmaninov’s First Piano Concerto was the centrepiece
The Times, 6 September 2010





Edinburgh Festival recital

I thought the roof would come off yesterday at the eruption of applause from the capacity audience after the first half of Steven Osborne’s recital.... What a concert. Merely to list everything Osborne played would consume the available space. What we witnessed, above all, was a staggering display of versatility, idiomatic at every level and breathtaking in its sweep and verve.... In the second half Ravel’s Valses and Rachmaninov’s Corelli Variations were pure Osborne steel and clarity. And he finished the adventure by taking on the mantle of Bill Evans for a melting version of My Foolish Heart. A tour de force.

The Herald, 1 September 2010


Scottish pianist Steven Osborne just seems to get better every time he gives a concert.

The Scotsman, 2 September 2010





Ravel recital, RSAMD

It’s tempting to suggest that, given the virtuosity we’ve heard from this pianist over the years, his pyrotechnical display of digital acrobatics, mesmerising colour control and breathtaking articulation came as no surprise on Friday; in truth it was absolutely staggering.

The Herald, 14 June 2010

 

Brahms piano concerto no.2: Orchestra of Opera North/Farnes
Steven Osborne was the driving power of this remarkable performance – intense, restrained and taut

Yorkshire Post, 4 June 2010



Shostakovich piano concerto no.2: CBSO/Vedernikov
Steven Osborne brought biting dexterity as well as appropriate dreaminess to Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto, brittle as well as musing

Birmingham Post, 4 June 2010




Mozart piano concerto in Bb K595: RLPO/Petrenko

Steven Osborne was the soloist in Mozart's B flat Piano Concerto, K 595, a performance big in soul and scale, which aspired to an almost Beethoven-like density in the outer movements and attained a wonderful sense of poetry in the central larghetto.

The Guardian, 25 April 2010




Mozart piano concerto in Bb K595: SCO/Kamu

Steven Osborne’s ultra-refined performance of Mozart’s last Piano Concerto ... seemed to me luminous from start to close, with Osborne probing way beneath the surface of the music, deep in its spirit, and revealing, in the sublime slow movement, levels of purity that are rare in music.

The Herald, 22 March 2010




Beethoven 4th piano concerto: Alabama Symphony/Brown

At the keyboard ... was Steven Osborne, a gifted and fearless pianist who can morph seamlessly between sweet lyricism and blistering cascades of scales. Most notable were his riveting first movement cadenza and precarious accents attacked from high off the keyboard. But it was the Andante that impressed the most -- for the churning octaves in the strings that complemented the caressing sighs from Osborne. The pianist is a master of pianistic chiaroscuro and conductor Justin Brown played off of it beautifully.

The Birmingham News, 26 February 2010




Schubert duets with Paul Lewis, Wigmore Hall

After the massive call-to-attention chord which opens the ‘Lebenssturme’ - ‘Storms of Life’ - Allegro, the pair launched into a brilliant synthesis, with Osborne’ filigree tracery weaving delicate patterns above Lewis’s powerful bass; in this performance the piece emerged as unusually fine-grained, while losing none of the requisite hurtling force.

 

The theme of the ‘Variations in B minor’, which followed, was wonderfully bleak and wistful, with its progressive embellishments seeming to emerge almost spontaneously, thanks to the rubato freedom each player allowed himself. If the ‘Fugue in E minor’ came across as a derivative curiosity - as a contrapuntalist, Schubert had absolutely nothing to add to Bach - the ‘Rondo in A’ had lovely grace.

 

After the interval the players switched positions, with fascinating results. Listening blind, as they played the ‘Fantasie in F minor’, you’d have said it was two other musicians. But the effect was no less magnificent than before.
The Independent, 31 January 2010




Messiaen Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus, Melbourne Recital Centre

Steven Osborne was responsible for what may prove to be the most outstanding event in the Recital Centre's opening celebrations.... He played with towering brilliance.

The Age, 12 Februrary 2009



Schubert Schwanengesang and Wolf with Dietrich Henschel, Wigmore Hall

Henschel truly lives the songs he is singing, and Osborne's accompaniment was thoroughly at one with the poetry's mood and with his partner's understanding of it.... There was a fine-tuned mutual response going on here, and it made for a cumulative impact that wisely was allowed to intensify over 75 minutes or so without the disruption of an interval.

The Telegraph, 14 January 2009

For all the surface elegance, the less obvious anguish of the seven Rellstab settings was perfectly conveyed, while the massive emotional power of the first and last songs of the Heine sequence that follows, Der Atlas and Der Doppelgänger, was unmistakable.

The Guardian, 15 January 2009


Messiaen Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus, Wigmore Hall
...a breathtaking performance, received with an enthusiasm that saw it cheered to the rafters.... If there is one Messiaen concert that will live long in the memory after this anniversary year, this was it.

The Telegraph, 15 December 2008

This was one of the great concerts of 2008

The Guardian, 21 December 2008



Ravel trio, Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time, Birmingham

... a truly mind-blowing evening of rare chamber music.
Birmingham Post, 12 December 2008




Brahms 2nd piano concerto: RSNO/Denève

Soloist Steven Osborne found the ideal blend of muscular power and poetry, equally at ease dominating the orchestra as he was dropping away from the limelight into the accompanying role.
The Guardian, 23 October 2008

Adding muscle and fibre to the concert was the impressive performance by Steven Osborne in Brahms's Second Piano Concerto, an account that powered through the mountainous opening movements as though they were a continuum; lifted the pressure with the gleaming clarity of the slow movement, and danced with a brilliant lightness of step through the finale.
The Herald, 20 October 2008


Edinburgh Festival: Debussy Children’s Corner, Beethoven Sonata No 21 in C ‘Waldstein’, Messiaen extracts from Vingt Regards:
In the second half, absolute stillness and concentration were the order of the day as Osborne played five movements from Messiaen's Vingt Regards sur l'enfant Jesus, variously glittering and deeply calm playing, all demonstrating Osborne's mastery of space, sonority and silence, and exemplifying just why he is regarded internationally as one of the great Messiaen pianists of the era.

At generating the vast spaces and silences of the opening movement, he is unequalled, and the sheer exultant power of his finale remains awesome.
The Herald, 29 August 2008


Recital at Tabernacl, Machynlleth:

Osborne opened with an unassuming account of Beethoven's G major Sonata, Op 79. There was no attempt to make it any grander than it is, yet his uncanny ability to draw the audience in and to command rapt attention meant that from the first pulsing chord of the C major sonata, Op 53, the Waldstein, every facet of Beethoven's tonal drama was communicated with startling immediacy, the clarity of the playing matched by a resonant richness.... In the second half, the pianist confounded expectations [by beginning with] with a nonchalant improvisation. A mercurial fast section - atonal, though with definitely jazzy inflections - was followed by an altogether slower meditation, its chords and haunting echoes redolent of Debussy. It not only made for riveting listening, but sent Osborne into the Rachmaninov [preludes op.23] with heightened sensibilities, delivering everything with a formidable weight and power and an imaginative instinct that was inspired.

There was another jazz improvisation by way of encore and, all told, this was a remarkable demonstration of both pianism and musicianship at their very best.
Guardian 28 August 2008


Bath Mozart Festival: Philharmonia Orchestra/Segerstam, MOZART Piano Concerto No 27 in B flat
The Mozart Piano Concerto No 27 was sheer delight. Steven Osborne's playing, precise and graceful in these rippling melodies, full of movement and energy, expressed the subtle changes of mood so characteristic of the work.
The Bath Chronicle, 20 November 2007


Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra/Hannu Lintu: Mozart Piano Concerto No 27 in B flat

Steven Osborne is an ideal Mozart pianist who has the technique to produce tone effortlessly and the sense of style for a musically insightful interpretation."
Aamuleti 28 October 2007


International Piano Series, London: Debussy Children’s Corner, Preludes nos 5-10, Beethoven Sonata No 21 in C, Rachmaninov Preludes nos 8-13

Osborne’s range of touch, colour and dynamics was a boon in the six Debussy Préludes – which he has recorded complete for Hyperion – and brought a potency that sustained the specific worlds of each, whether icily hypnotic, tempestuous or volatile.
Classicalsource.com 17 October 2007


BBC Proms: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Ilan Volkov, Britten Piano Concerto

The scintillating soloist in the Britten was Steven Osborne, relishing the bravura of all the scales, arpeggios and flourishes, but also tellingly increasing the emotional weight at the start of the slow third-movement impromptu… There was a spectrum of orchestral detail here to complement Osborne’s deft and sensitive pianism, the virtuosity matched by tranquility and, above all, by joie de vivre.
Geoffrey Norris Telegraph, 1 August 2007
Stephen Osborne was the dazzling soloist in Britten's Piano Concerto, articulating the passage-work of the first movement with glittering assurance. 4 stars.
The Guardian, 3 August 2007


Perth Concert Hall: Debussy Children’s Corner, Beethoven Sonata No 21 in C ‘Waldstein’, Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition

His Mussorgsky was wonderfully- paced, with acres of space around the music - an Osborne specialism. But it was the Beethoven that formed the soul and core of what I believe was a great Osborne performance… It was the extraordinary, immaculately-gauged, unhurried and transcendently calm account of the finale, with its long prefatory heartbeat of a slow movement, which stopped time and regular breathing. A recital in a thousand.
Glasgow Herald, 13 April 2007


Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Douglas Boyd, MOZART Piano Concerto No 27 in B flat

Osborne beautifully highlighted the daydream-like quality of the music with great charm and wit. He has a superb technique which relies on a lightness of touch, both at the keyboard and on the pedal, to create a rich, clear sonority. This was demonstrated to perfection in the introspective larghetto
The Scotsman 26 March 2007


Edinburgh Festival, DEBUSSY Preludes Book 2, Rachmaninov Preludes Op 32

Steven Osborne reaffirmed his ability to pull off one of the major repertoire challenges… Osborne is a master at creating the sense of atmosphere they [the audience] cry out for
The Scotsman, 25 August 2006


Philharmonia/Vladimir Ashkenazy, Shostakovich Piano Concerto No 2 (UK tour)

Osborne brought to the solo part a contrapuntal clarity worthy of Bach combined with a sense of unadulterated fun
The Herald, 5 May 2006
One was so transfixed by Steven Osborne’s lucid, vivacious pianism – immaculate in technique, touching in the more reflective moments
The Independent, 17 May 2006



London Philharmonic Orchestra/Paul Watkins, Mozart Piano Concerto No 12 in A K414, Queen Elizabeth Hall

… a superlative performance… The Mozart concerto received a crisply buoyant and characterful rendering. Osborne gave this music a real muscularity and backbone whilst never over-stepping appropriate stylistic bounds. The outer movements were taken at a swift pace, Osborne still finding plenty of light and shade and subtly varying the tensions… and Osborne timed the music's important pauses with particular care. The dignified slow movement, with its echoes of Handel, was given with rare concentration and was the performance's emotional core.
Classical Source.com, 12 February 2006


Australian Chamber Orchestra tour, Mozart Piano Concerto No 12 in A K414, Britten Young Apollo

Osborne is a pianist of great skill.  He plays with an even hand and for this andante movement the result was an unruffled glassy texture, each phrase growing organically from the last… The ACO and Osborne fired off each other like rockets, with Osborne at his extroverted best
Herald Sun, 18 September 2005


BBC PROMS: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins, Tippett Piano Concerto

Pianist Steven Osborne was one of the first to lead the Tippett centenary tributes in January, with the four Sonatas; here he seemed just the right soloist for the composer's Piano Concerto, the centrepiece of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra's all-British programme under Martyn Brabbins. (4 stars)
The Guardian, 10 August 2005


City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo, Tippett Piano Concerto

Osborne’s mastery, and the CBSO’s under Sakari Oramo, was not just to elucidate the concerto in terms of texture and structure, but to make it positively leap from the page as a piece of music with an expressive core, dynamism in the bravura and a fascinating relationship between piano and orchestra
The Daily Telegraph, 3 June 2005

 

Wigmore Hall, Tippett Festival, Tippett Piano Sonatas 1-4, Ravel, Gershwin, Bartók, Ives, Beethoven, Debussy
 Osborne’s performance (of Tippett) was titanic – easily the best I’ve ever heard with every gesture given its full, dramatic weight
The Guardian, 7 January 2005



Schubertiade, Austria, Beethoven 6 Bagatelles op 126, Waldstein Sonata, Schubert Sonata in B Major

 

Beethoven’s 6 Bagatelles… in which, .a bold virtuosity… was clear.  This impression intensified in the following ‘Waldstein Sonata’, which Osborne played at breakneck speed, with thrusting sharp engraved runs.  Piano as a high energy sport.  In the finale, Schubert’s Sonata in B Major, Osborne played the first two movements so falteringly morbidly, so extremely sadly, that it almost took your breath away.  The Schubertiade public celebrates Gerd Nachbauer’s marvelous pianistic discovery for its festival.
Voralberger Nachrichten, 13 June 2004

 


Reviews of Steven’s recordings can be found here.

 

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