Steven Osborne

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Sunday 17th September

Scottish pianist Steven Osborne turns his talents to the challenging works of George Crumb (b1929) and Morton Feldman (1926-87). Both American composers of the twentieth century and part of the avant-garde movement. The evening commenced with Morton Feldman’s Intermission 5, he consciously avoided traditional form and preferred to create music that did not tell a story or proceed in a predictable way, encouraging the listener to be in the moment. He even went to the lengths of moving bars around if he thought it necessary. Much of the piece is soft and quiet giving it a pensive, unassuming quality. However at other times it is louder and more agitated. In Piano piece 1952, the piece is played one note at a time and Feldman explores what can be done with just one finger. Extensions 3 returns to a softer quieter style with notes largely in the higher register. It is contemplative in nature and it is this quality that I enjoy about his music. The longer Palais de Mari, which he wrote in the year preceding his death, concerns a painting in the Louvre of a royal palace in the ancient region of Babylon, Syria. Feldman himself was born in New York to Russian Jews. Feldman is probably the more challenging of the two composers, as it is more abstract, but as Steven Osborne says in his introduction, it is “strangely beautiful”. But at times frustrating, as he consciously avoided taking his music in any particular direction

George Crumb’s works start with his Processional, his work falls between neo-classicism and avant-garde and his musical influences for the piano were Debussy and Bartok. Personally I enjoyed the balance between harmonic and atonal phrases. The next piece by Crumb was A Little Suite for Christmas ‘ad 1979’. This is inspired by Giotto’s frescoes in the chapel of Padua, of the story of Jesus (1305). It’s certainly a little dystopian in it’s interpretation. Crumb shows his inventiveness by using both the keys and strings at the same time, it is cleverly evocative of ancient times, and there are consistent themes of bells chiming, and dramatic echoes in the lower register. Crumb said that he sought to achieve a balance between spirituality and technicality in his music, which is clearly evident in this piece. He was born in West Virginia, and considered his music, to be “a stamp of West Virginia, with echoes and haunting sounds that cross the river at night.” George Crumb was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1968.

Steven Osborne is an accomplished pianist, who trained at St Mary’s School in Edinburgh before going to the Royal Northern College of Music. He performs recitals all over the world. All credit to Steven for performing such challenging and for many, controversial works.

Reviewer : Sophie Younger

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