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Key dates keep pianist Steven Osborne out of Cottier festival

LAST week I had an idle moment (a rarity, I assure you, he said hastily) and decided to browse, in an unhurried way, through some concert listings and brochures to get some idea of what was coming up and what was around the corner.

The new orchestral winter seasons were to be off limits for my idle browse (far too early), as was the Edinburgh International Festival programme (far too heavy for the level of idleness I was contemplating). Why on earth I didn't just switch off, open the door fully on lethargy, have a nice drink and a bit of a semi-retired snooze, is beyond my comprehension. The music never stops, I guess.

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Anyway, my eye fell on the brochure and a listings sheet for the latest Cottier Chamber Project, that wonderfully rich and increasingly pluralistic mini festival in Glasgow's West End dreamed up by horn player and imaginative musical entrepreneur Andy Saunders, who seems to have the ability to ensnare for his festival just about every musician in Scotland, from within all of the orchestras, the entire freelance, self-employed musical community and, indeed, from the top drawer of the country's leading soloists.

That's it, I thought, in a wee eureka moment. There's a possible Saturday column for you, my old son. Get your glass loaded, settle back and let's find out what pianist Steven Osborne is doing for Andy in this year's magical mystery tour of the repertoire.

Osborne is an interesting character. He is a national and international figure. He plays all over the world as a concerto soloist and recitalist. He is at the top of his game and at the top of the tree. He is a man in big demand, for the concert stage and the recording studio. He could live anywhere: I have, indeed, met people who have assumed he must live in one of the main centres, whether New York, London, Paris or Vienna.

In fact, he lives in his home town of Linlithgow. Years ago, in the course of one of our many interviews, when I raised that with him, he replied pretty much that there was no need to live anywhere else. Linlithgow was his home town, his family town, he liked living there and he could be anywhere he needed to be, or where the work took him, within a day or so.

There was no need to live in London, in other words. And the other side of that coin, of course, is that because he elected not be full-time peripatetic, on the daily touring grind with a hotel existence, we see and hear a lot of him on our concert circuit in his native country.

So it was a bit of a surprise when I could not find him anywhere in the Cottier Chamber Project brochure. I then referred to the listings sheet I have of everything in the project. No trace of Steven Osborne. At that point, I texted Andy Saunders and enquired. It had just proved impossible this year, Saunders explained, with date clashes and Osborne's scheduled rehearsals for other engagements. They already have him earmarked for next year.

So what is Steven Osborne doing over the summer that has him so busy? Here's a flavour. On June 7 he will appear at the Wigmore Hall, London, in the fifth and final concert in a series entitled Spotlight On Steven Osborne, in which he will join violinist Alina Abragimova in performances of Prokofiev's two Violin Sonatas and Aarvo Part's Fratres. That will be followed on June 30 by the release on Hyperion of a recording of those sonatas with another work.

The night before that release, Osborne will appear with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican in a monster performance of Messiaen's Turangalila Symphonie to mark the end of the LSO's winter season. In between times he is back in Scotland playing Beethoven with the BBC SSO on June 15, then it is heads down for the Edinburgh International Festival, where he has two chamber music performances in Greyfriars Kirk and the Queen's Hall.

Busy man, that Mr Osborne.

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