Steven Osborne. Elder Hall. 3 Dec 2012
Steven Osborne is a remarkable musician. When he plays it is almost as if the piano is a medium that allows him to establish direct contact with the composer, because he always manages to extract some new meaning from what ever piece he is playing. Put simply, it just doesn’t sound ‘mainstream’; when he plays, the result is somehow different, and this is somewhat disarming, but in a most enjoyable way.
I thought that I was reasonably well acquainted with Medtner’s Sonata Romantica, Op.53, No.1, having enjoyed Geoffrey Tozer’s recording of it for a number of years. But Osborne placed a different spotlight on it and the piece yielded something additional. The sombre tones of the first movement seemed even more serious and contemplative, and the liveliness of the second was almost wilful, which contrasted with the absolute clarity of the third and the finale.
A contemporary and friend of Medtner, Rachmaninov dominated the remainder of Osborne’s program, and the mighty Sonata No.2, Op. 36, also in the same key as the Medtner – B flat minor – took centre stage. This piece demands lightness of touch as well as the ability to extract ‘fff’ without losing tonal differentiation. Osborne was not tempted to overuse the sustaining pedal and again every note could be clearly heard, particularly in those sections which imitate bells. The result was astonishing.
Osborne also played Rachmaninov’s popular Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42, and George Crumb’s innovative Processional, which is devoid of traditional structure and was an interesting foil to the vim and vigour of the Russian’s.
To finish the evening the audience was asked to vote on whether the encore would be more Rachmaninov or some Prokofiev. The latter won out, and the audience left quite in awe of Steven Osborne.
Next year RBS Morgans will again be sponsoring the international piano series but will be relocating to the Space theatre in the Adelaide Festival Centre in a renewed attempt to increase the audience. The audiences this year have been disappointingly small, and the pianists who have been featured deserved to be heard by many more. Next year’s line up is stellar. Do treat yourself and go to at least one.
Where: Elder Hall