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Beethoven & Rachmaninov

Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 25 in G Op. 79; Fantasia in G minor Op. 77; 11 Bagatelles Op. 119

Rachmaninov Variations on a theme of Corelli Op. 42

Steven Osborne piano

Wigmore Hall, 7 June 2010

A full house for an unusual programme showed that Wigmore Hall no longer needs standard fare to sell tickets.

Steven Osborne's demeanour showed a serious minded recitalist, not concerned with wooing his audience. His attack on the little Op. 79 sonata was disconcertingly fierce, and he was a little short on the charm and wit also to be found in it. The Fantasia is capricious and continually surprising - "exploration of harmony and texture enlivening spontaneous invention" [Geoffrey Norris]. The Bagatelles assembled for publication from small pieces composed 1820-22 made a happy ending to the sequence, taken seriously though with perhaps less flexibility than some pianists find in them.

The dark La folia Variations of c.1931 (Kreisler, the dedicatee, had introduced Rachmaninov to the theme in his violin arrangement of it) received an intense, appropriately thoughtful performance; its importance has latterly been more appreciated; try to see Vladimir Ashkenazys lecture/recital account on a Christopher Nupen film seen on Sky Arts TV.

And listen through your computer to the BBC R3 broadcast of Osborne's performance, recorded for Listen Again and a repeat broadcast on Saturday, and sounding very vivid.

Peter Grahame Woolf