I must declare an interest: I really like this pianist

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

I need to declare an interest. I have described Steven Osborne elsewhere as the most interesting British pianist of his generation, a declaration which practically precludes me from reviewing his recordings, predisposed as I am to praise them. It’s a dilemma which I try to resolve by listening to everything that Osborne does and allowing at least a year to elapse between one enthusiastic review and the next. You’ve no idea how taxing this can be.

That said, I am happily immersed in…

Read on here.

And here.

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    • I did, and you’re right. It’s reached the point whereby I am willing to buy anything he records as the result is never less than musically engaging and tasteful, and frequently revelatory.

      My first post does him a disservice; I’ve also heard him do equally well in Lizst (Harmonies Poetiques et Religieuses), Stravinsky, Tippett, Schubert and Kapustin. That’s a pretty incredible range of repertoire in anybody’s book.

      I think, between Osborne, Stephen Hough and Marc-Andre Hamelin, Hyperion have got just about as strong (and interesting) set of pianists as a record company could wish for.

  • Isn’t he brilliant? Also, with the enviable knack of being able to do it in an extraordinary range of repertoire. I’ve heard him play concertos by Britten and Beethoven live; and on disc, stupendous sets of Debussy and Rachmaninov preludes, Beethoven sonatas, Messiaen Vingt Regards (what colour! What precise chording!) Ravel, Mussorgsky, Alkan and Prokofiev; plus Schnittke and Shostakovich (as accompanist in the cello sonatas). A Brahms encore (after one of those concertos) was equally magical.

    What is so striking is how he projects such character without ever transgressing the scores, and always within the style. Don’t know how he does it, but more power to his elbow.

    For the record: I am neither his agent nor his mum; merely an admirer.

  • Too bad so little of this pianist is available for streaming on Apple Music and probably other platforms too.

  • Acknowledging that you already think somebody is good, or great, or whatever, is no reason not to review their recordings — or to be taken seriously when you do.

    As long as a critic is clear about what he/she likes, and why, then readers can view his/her reviews through that lens and decide whether they think they would like that recording. If the critic is clear about what they’re talking about, sometimes you can discover a new [to you] artist that you like because of a negative review.

    (Wai Kit Leung’s review of a Kathryn Needleman CD comes to mind: I’m too lazy to go back and look it up/ re-read it, but as I recall, he basically said “I’m a fan of the European approach to oboe playing, for the following reasons, and not a fan of the American approach, for the following reasons. Ms. Needleman is really good at the American style, if that’s what you like.” I could definitely see an American writing a similar review of any Holliger recording. It remains a puzzle to me why he got into so much trouble for that review.)

    As long as a critic can
    • articulate why they think this recording from their favorite artist is good, instead of just saying “he recorded it, so I love it;”
    • recognize when their favorite’s new recording is not one of their best, and explain why;
    • be open to surprises from other artists (“I’m not usually a fan of so-and-so, but this recording…”);
    • be respectful of an artist’s interpretive choices if they seem thoughtful, even if they disagree with the artist’s approach;

    ….then there’s no reason they can’t maintain their credibility, even when reviewing one of their already-established “favorite” artists.

  • Another option would be to do some blind listening; have one of your people play another pianist’s recording of a work as well as Osborne’s, and write your impressions of both. You might surprise yourself with both.

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