Graham Rickson
June 2017

Steven Osborne's solo Ravel anthology is among the best available, and it's good that he's now tackling the composer's two very different piano concertos. Not all pianists succeed in both. Osborne does, understanding each one's distinct character. His Concerto in G major is sharp-witted and joyous in the outer movements, the pounding Gershwinesque writing urging the music forward. Any hint of brittleness is offset by Osborne’s delight in Ravel’s schmalzier moments. The first movement’s cadenza and close are typical, music which floats and soars before gleefully heading back to earth with a satisfying thwack. And what a finale, Osborne’s fast tempo brilliantly sustained. He plays the lovely Adagio assai with a purity and coolness which you suspect the composer would have admired. Hyperion’s sound is on the dry side, but works well for me, the orchestral details always audible. This is even more of an asset in the Concerto for the left hand, the opening contrabassoon solo audible as actual notes instead of vague growling. Ludovic Morlot’s BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra are deft partners, the jazzy central section nicely pointed. Osborne's thunderous cadenza is magnificent, and the work’s close overwhelms. We get a generous bonus in the shape of Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain. It's great fun, though the whole work never quite lives up to the promise of the sultry opening movement. A covetable disc, with good sleeve art and excellent notes from Roger Nichols.