Review by: David Hurwitz
Artistic Quality: 7
Sound Quality: 9
Steven Osborne almost invariably turns in thoughtful, sensitive interpretations of whatever he plays, and there are some exquisite moments throughout these performances. Consider the svelte shaping of the Ravel G major Concerto’s first movement second subject. Yet the same passage shows that there’s a price to pay as well. These are soft-edged interpretations, too willing to slow down and wallow in the music’s often delicious sonorities. The same concerto’s slow movement surprisingly lacks a sense of flow. Despite Osborne’s characterful shaping of the concluding rondo’s virtuoso figuration, there’s not enough edge or impact. The dynamic range throughout sounds restricted, through no fault of the engineering.
Similarly, the Left Hand Concerto spends so much time at the bottom end of the keyboard, and yet Osborne refuses to bang out the low notes the way the music demands. The performers project no sense of menace, and the jazz episodes don’t swing. Here and elsewhere he’s not helped by Ludovic Morlot’s relatively stiff accompaniments. Nights in the Gardens of Spain suffers especially from a lack of sparkle to the keyboard textures and labored rhythms in the orchestra. It’s all just marginally underplayed. I wish it were otherwise because I admire these artists and had very high expectations for this release. The coupling, also, is both unusual but so “right” that it’s amazing we find it so seldom. This is by no means bad, but it’s disappointing nonetheless.
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