:Schubert: Impromptus, Piano pieces & VariationsYear Of Release
:24bit-96kHz FLACTotal Time
Steven Osborne shines in lyrical new performances of seven of Schubert's greatest late works for piano, plus the extended Hüttenbrenner Variations of 1817.
Steven Osborne's first foray into Schubert was a widely-praised album of duets with Paul Lewis, which many reviewers granted instant classic status. Some four years later, he returns to the composer, for whom he clearly has a deep love and innate empathy. The second set of Four Impromptus D.935 is coupled here not with the first set (as is usually done), but with the Three Piano Pieces D.946 though these are so similar in design as to be impromptus in all but name. This is intimate music Schubert at home, playing for his friends an atmosphere which Osborne conveys wonderfully well with his characteristically pellucid singing tone and unmannered phrasing. Listen, for instance, to the gorgeous melody (you won t be able to get it out of your head!) in the opening F minor Impromptu, played by the left hand constantly crossing back and forth over the right, or the light-as-a-feather scale passages in No.4. While it's a joy to hear such a beautifully-voiced Steinway in these hands (superbly recorded, by the way), the less familiar Hüttenbrenner Variations (13 in all, based on the slow movement of his friend's E major string quartet, and composed a decade earlier in 1817) are pleasant enough, but hardly on the same exalted level. **** --Sinfini Music, 11/9/15
Osborne ...excels in his grasp of structure-if anyone remains who thinks Schubert just rambles delightfully on, these accounts should lead to a rapid change of mind. Performance **** Recording **** --BBC Music Magazine, Nov'15
Osbourne immediately presents himself as a Schubertian of the utmost seriousness and integrity, and throughout the disc offers finely gauged and beautifully regulated playing. Gramophone, Oct'15 /// This is marvellous, an unexpected treat from a versatile pianist more commonly associated with 20th-century repertoire. Though Steven Osborne does have form in Schubert, having made a superb Hyperion disc of the composer's piano duet music several years ago. He gives us gloriously clear-sighted, lyrical performances of two posthumously published works. The D935 Four Impromptus are described in Misha Donat's notes as a sonata in disguise. Play them in order and you've an expansive 37-minute-long sequence, the last movement in the same key as the first. Osborne's generously upholstered Steinway makes an irresistible noise, the bass lines ideally resonant. These are difficult pieces to pull off, and Osborne's never better than in the slower, unshowy moments. The lovely theme which forms the basis of the third Impromptu's variations is gorgeous, played here with touching grace and warmth. He also picks exactly the right speed for the last piece, the rapid scales ideally clear. Osborne makes a persuasive case for Schubert's late Three Piano Pieces. As with the Impromptus, their scale is surprising, the three together lasting 25 minutes. The Allegretto grips during its 11-minute span, and the final Allegro's ostinato rhythms never pall. Osborne closes this anthology with Schubert's Hüttenbrenner Variations Anselm Hüttenbrenner being the student friend who guarded the Unfinished Symphony's manuscript for years after Schubert's death. What Schubert does with Hüttenbrenner's hypnotic, dactylic theme is fascinating, and the brutal closing seconds are an unexpected shock. Wonderful stuff, beautifully played and sumptuously recorded. --ArtsDesk, 28/11/15
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