Steven Osborne

Rachmaninov: 24 Preludes

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While there is much to admire in Steven Osborne's 2009 Hyperion recording of Rachmaninov's complete preludes, some fans of the composer may ultimately find themselves dissatisfied with his performances. Osborne is clearly a virtuoso with a wonderfully varied color palette and a way of balancing melody and harmony for maximum effectiveness There are some strong elements; his fleet fingers in the A flat major Prelude, his sumptuous sonorities in the C sharp minor Prelude, his galloping rhythms in the G minor Prelude, or his rolling left hand arpeggios in the B flat major Prelude, in addition to his overall command, control, and technique. Other listeners may question Osborne's feel for Rachmaninov's music. The restless melancholy of the B minor Prelude, the volatile passion of the F minor Prelude, and the spooky atmosphere of the G sharp minor Prelude are here, but to nowhere near the same degree as in other accounts of the pieces by veteran Rachmaninov pianists such as Vladimir Ashkenazy, where the music's hyper-Romantic emotional content is superbly expressed in wholly idiomatic performances. Hyperion's digital sound, though clear and colorful, is surprisingly a bit thin and a tad distant.

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