Steven Osborne

Debussy: Images; L'Isle Joyeuse; Estampes; Masques; Children's Corner; D'un Chaier d'Esquisses

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Steven Osborne is not a household name, but the appearance of this album of Debussy standards on sales charts' top tiers is not a surprise: audiences have come to expect fresh approaches, executed at a high technical level, from this remarkably consistent player and that's what he delivers. If you are expecting the watercolor Debussy, you'll get very little of it here: Even in the two sets of Images, Osborne, though quite evocative, traces Debussy's lines with precision. As usual, one of Osborne's strengths here lies in the organization of the program: he begins not with one of the "Impressionist" works, but with the vigorous Masques. That makes the effect of the Images all the more intense. The Children's Corner is not set off into a category of light works, and its effect is revelatory. It comes off not as a work for children, or even a work appealing to children, but as a work about children, and it makes a uniquely satisfying conclusion. Sample Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum, in which the good doctor takes on a slightly demonic mood, or the final Golliwog's Cake Walk, which, unlike in most performances, receives its proper ragtime energy. Highly recommended, even for those with several versions of these works in their collections.

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