Thursday, November 22, 2007


Good to see Andrew Clements' positive review of Steven Osborne's important recording of Sir Michael Tippett's Piano Sonatas Nos 1-4, together with the Piano Concerto and the early Fantasia On a Theme of Handel. It's fashionable to knock Tippett these days. But quixotic though some of his music is, it remains immensely powerful and will have its day again, of that I'm sure. I haven't heard this disc yet, but it's on my Christmas wish-list. I was privileged to see one of Osborne's recitals featuring the sonatas at the Wigmore Hall during the Tippett centenary celebrations in 2005.

Clements writes: "Osborne is superb at delineating the characters of the four sonatas, and underlining how, in their very different ways, they relate to the piano tradition. The First, from 1942, is the most surprising, for its florid, almost improvisatory writing sometimes seems to be modelled on the bravura style of Liszt and Rachmaninov, which Osborne projects dazzlingly, while under his fingers the Second Sonata, composed in 1962, emerges as a gritty and uncompromising masterpiece, indebted both to late Stravinsky and to Messiaen.

"But it's in the less often performed Third and Fourth Sonatas, from 1973 and 1984 respectively, that Osborne's ability to grasp overall shapes while also respecting the smallest details is most thoroughly tested, and his performances are coherent, vivid and coursing with drama."

Hyperion are to be congratulated on this two CD set, which also features Martyn Brabbins and the fine BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

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