Is this Steven Osborne’s finest recording?

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Opp. 109, 110 & 111

Steven Osborne (piano)
Steven Osborne

Steven Osborne is a Scottish pianist who has become one of Britain’s most treasured musicians. His insightful interpretations show a degree of musical depth lacking in many of his contemporaries. On this his twenty-fifth release on the Hyperion label he takes on Beethoven’s final three piano sonatas – three works which represent Beethoven at the peak of his powers and imagination. If anyone can persuade me that I should add another reading of these three pillars of the repertory then I guess Steven Osborne is the pianist to do it!

So how does this recording live up to my forecast? In a nutshell I have to say that the performances of all three works fully lived up to, or even exceeded, my high expectations. In the opening Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major, Op. 109,  composed near the same time as the Missa Solemnis and his famous ‘Choral’ Symphony, Osborne effectively conveys the multi-dimensional nature of the piece and in the long slow movement he effectively brings out contrasts between the variations. In the first movement of the Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, Op. 110 Steven Osborne plays the roving left-hand line in the first-movement development with just the right amount of eloquence and in the final movement he builds to a powerful climax (that will come as no surprise to those who have heard his performance of the Hammerklavier Sonata). The CD ends with the monumental two-movement Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111. In this work, as in the other two, Osborne plays with great clarity and drive. Somehow Steven Osborne tells you something new about these familiar pieces and reveals hidden truths about the music that one has somehow previously missed. Steven Osborne has his own individual take on these works but he does not impose his personality on the pieces. Listening to this recording, as with his concert performances, you are so much more aware of the music than the performer.

So this might well be considered Steven Osborne’s greatest recording to date and it more than stands comparison with any other recent alternatives. Even if you own multiple versions of these works you really should add this album to your collection.

iClassical rating:

Hyperion recordings are not available on any streaming platform but extracts can be played from their website.