Steven Osborne

Rachmaninov Etudes-Tableaux


SO prolific is Scots pianist Steven Osborne as a recording artist, it must be a struggle for him to keep up with the repertoire he is learning in his recital schedule. This must surely be a reversal of the usual order of things these days. He is fast closing in on 30 albums for Hyperion – his primary outlet – alone, and there has been work on other labels. Of late we have had centenary Debussy, late Beethoven sonatas (with more of those to come in 2019), and Ravel Piano Concertos as his most recent studio work in partnership with the BBC SSO.

Almost a decade after his recording of Rachmaninov’s better known Preludes won him one of his many prizes, and after featuring selections from this set in recitals, these curiosities from the second decade of the last century (the same era as the Debussy works) make their appearance complete. The title can be translated as “picture postcards” but exactly what they depict is known only of a few of them. Intriguingly, the composer was quite specific about those when he gave some notes to Ottorino Respighi, who was orchestrating five on them at the start of the 1930s, so the belief is that the rest are as programmatic, although not spelled out anywhere.

Wisely, Osborne has also stayed schtum about any images he conjured up to construct his sensitive, colourful and vibrant realisations, but any attentive listener will surely find themselves assaying imaginative possibilities.

Keith Bruce