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Critically acclaimed Scottish pianist Steven Osborne’s latest recording finds him tackling one of the great monsters of the classical piano repertoire – Beethoven’s Op. 106 Piano Sonata, the Hammerklavier.
Brutal, experimental and relentlessly modern, the Hammerklavier hurtled relentlessly forth into new harmonic territory via a revolutionary four-movement structure. Osborne takes the first two of these at a terrifying clip before sinking into the devastating emotionality of the Adagio Sostenuto, throughout which his extraordinary technical clarity is maintained: the upper register notes drip like acid rain, burning where they land.
It’s often said that Osborne’s playing reveals hitherto unheard nuances, and this is certainly true of the final, smashing fugal movement, which is compelling and repays repeated listening.
The Hammerklavier is accompanied by the two sonatas preceding it chronologically – Op. 90 and 101. As renowned Beethoven scholar Professor Barry Cooper points out in his superb liner notes, these “three sonatas represent an enormous crescendo in terms of length and difficulty”.
Osborne’s tone is bright and crisp, but never harsh or brittle, and the recording is in accord with Hyperion’s usual high standards of fidelity. Osborne has released over 20 albums since signing with Hyperion in 1998; many have met with critical acclaim, and this one is no exception.