Classical review: Steven Osborne, Perth Concert Hall

In the lull between storms Gertrude and Henry this weekend came the most idyllic and peaceful experience: yesterday afternoon's breathtaking recital by Scots pianist Steven Osborne, part of the excellent Perth Piano Sundays series.

Steven Osborne

Steven Osborne | Rating: ***** | 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.

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In the opening Impromptus by Schubert, Osborne beguiled us with the softly unwinding enchantment of No1, and interpreted No 4 as if he were telling a rapt story in rhythm and tones, a spellbinding narrative that then fed through a golden sequence of Debussy numbers, the subtly picturesque Images framed by the sultry brilliance of Masques and the more open expressiveness of L’isle joyeuse.

The focus of the second half was a judicious selection from Rachmaninov’s Études-tableaux (Op 33 & 39), but by prefacing them with George Crumb’s Processional – untypical for Crumb in its sustained length, and with a post-Impressionist sound world as its springboard – Osborne found the perfect transition from Debussy to Rachmaninov.

And 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.