Steven Osborne's recordings for Hyperion have been fascinating for their varied content, and he seems never to settle into a predictable niche. While he has recorded music by Shostakovich and Rachmaninov, it's never been with the aim of concentrating on Russian music, though he certainly demonstrates a strong sympathy for it and could easily be a leading specialist in the field. This album of Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and Sergey Prokofiev's Five Sarcasms and Visions Fugitives once again shows his deep understanding of the Russian spirit, and he reveals not only a special feeling for its dark and brooding aspects, but also displays a brilliance that reflects the Russian love of tone colors and effective scene painting. Mussorgsky's evocations of Viktor Hartmann's paintings are most famous in the colorful orchestral version by Ravel, but the piano's own timbres are similarly exploited and shaded by Osborne, whose playing is a kind of orchestration of touch and attack. The Prokofiev pieces are less obviously picturesque, though they are suggestive of mental states and fleeting impressions that Osborne communicates through his enormous array of expressions. Sarcasms calls for edgy and aggressive playing while Visions Fugitives is more reflective and evanescent, yet Osborne has firm control of all these moods and shadings, and he makes his Prokofiev performances as compelling as the Mussorgsky. Hyperion's sound captures Osborne with great clarity and resonance, though the microphone placement isn't close enough to give him much physical presence.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Pictures from an Exhibition|
|Sarcasms, Op. 17|
|Visions fugitives, Op. 22|