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“There are a number of recordings of Vingt Regards available, most of them very good indeed. Even the finest, though, provoke very slight reservations: an occasional suspicion of hurry in Pierre-Laurent Aimard's outstanding account, a few misjudgments in Roger Muraro's, and so on. There are no such reservations about the reading by Steven Osborne, who's revealed as a pianist of exceptional gifts. Messiaen's widow, Yvonne Loriod, invited Osborne to study the work with her after she heard him playing other music by her late husband. One can hear throughout not only her influence but, even more, the qualities in his playing that led her to make the offer. His command of sonority is prodigious: if you've never been able to take Messiaen's talk about the 'colour' of particular chords seriously, then Osborne's playing may change your mind. He also has a remarkable dynamic range. These two qualities combine to provide both clarity and a tremendous climax in the virtuoso quasifugal textures of No 6 ('By Him was everything made') and, at the other end of the spectrum, to make perfect sense of Messiaen's description of the opening bars of No 17 ('The Gaze of Silence'): 'the music seems to emerge from silence as colours emerge from the night.' Nor is he insensible to the fact that some of the Regards are frankly showy. No 10 ('Gaze of the Spirit of Joy') is dazzling; No 16 ('Gaze of the Prophets, the Shepherds and the Magi') is barbarously colourful. Perhaps most significant of all, he finds in No 15 ('The kiss of the child Jesus') not only the sweet quietness of its opening but the spectacular Lisztian display of its later pages. The recording is ideally responsive to the wide range of sound he draws from the instrument.”
“A performance of commanding virtuosity, deep poetry and ravishing colour”
“Few possess the spiritual, emotional and physical stamina required for a successful interpretation of Messiaen's transcendent. Recorded on the back of a series of well-received concert performances, Steven Osborne's new account certainly demonstrates these qualities in abundance.”
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