“…outstanding Rachmaninov playing of acute perception, discretion and poetic sensibility, limpid, powerful and luminous in equal measure.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2009 *****
“It's all too easy to coarsen Rachmaninov's melodic genius with an overtly applied emotionalism, its clearly drawn lines becoming smudged. But Osborne conveys both the monumentality of these pieces, even the most fleeting, and their very human qualities. ...while there's no empty barn-storming on display here, that's not to say the technical challenges are shirked or underplayed in any way. There are few pianists who offer such range and depth of palette: not even Ashkenazy's seminal reading.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2009
“His dazzling technique illuminates the virtuosic allegro and allegretto sections, and his playing has a Rachmaninovian pliancy and beautifully achieved rubato in lyrical passages. One of the piano discs of the year.” Sunday Times, 17th May 2009 ****
“Osborne's skill and imagination combine to bring fresh perspectives to the well-known pieces and an absorbing range of expressivity to those that remain underplayed…” The Telegraph, 4th May 2009 *****
“These are wonderfully natural performances: the best on disc since Vladimir Ashkenazy's set from the 1970s, with Osborne always alert to the variegated surfaces of the music, yet mindful of the deeper currents that run beneath. His sound is perfectly judged, never overbearing in even the heftiest passages, and translucent enough to allow the inner lines, which often in Rachmaninov have an expressive life all their own, to be heard. A lovely disc.” The Guardian, 1st May 2009 *****
“A quick dip into Rachmaninov’s scattered recordings from this repertoire finds the composer boxed in, not just by ancient recording technology but by his own circumspection. Osborne, by comparison, flies free without ever rampaging. Sorrow and sunlight, death and life: all Rachmaninov is here, in three dimensions, luscious colour and widescreen. A most exciting release.” The Times, 24th April 2009 ****
“This sensational pianist is usually associated with Messiaen or Tippett. Here, playing a Steinway, he brings his technical wizardry and, above all, his penetrating musical intelligence to these much-recorded works of Rachmaninov. There's no indulgence and no piano bashing. In his combination of modesty, inner fire and natural virtuosity he brings to mind that other Rachmaninov master, Ashkenazy.” The Observer, 19th April 2009
“Extremely impressive all round … Osborne lavishes a remarkable level of authority on every one of these masterworks, playing with a rare combination of technical ease, tonal lustre and idiomatic identification. He also has the undeniable advantage of a
magnificent Steinway instrument with a rich, opulent sonority and great solidity in its bass register … In summary, Osborne goes from strength to strength as he moves through the cycle, wrapping up the final page of the concluding D flat prelude in a blaze of glory … For a truly spellbinding
modern account, Osborne now holds the winning ticket” International Record Review
“It's all too easy to coarsen Rachmaninov's melodic genius with an overtly applied emotionalism, its clearly drawn lines becoming smudged.
But Osborne conveys both the monumentality of these pieces, even the most fleeting, and their very human qualities. It's rare to find the balance so acutely achieved. The composer himself, of course, knew how to achieve that equilibrium, but then he had a head start.
Yet this is only a starting-point – the detail is equally delectable: the way that Osborne shapes the tear-stained melody of Op 23 No 4, for instance, and picks out the line from the dark, bustling figuration of Op 23 No 7 or the lefthand countermelody of Op 23 No 8. Then, in the Op 32 set, there's the simplicity of the second, with its incessant tolling around the note C, through to the meditative quality of No 10, the line rising out of the depths as sonorously as Debussy's cathedral. Another fascination is the way Osborne's range of touch puts the Preludes into such a clear historical context.
Osborne throws down the gauntlet with a towering C sharp minor Prelude: it's arguably too slow but makes an apt curtain-raiser on a set that glories in the magnificence of this music. And while there's no empty barn-storming on display here, that's not to say the technical challenges are shirked or underplayed in any way.
There are few pianists who offer such range and depth of palette.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“Stephen Osborne is well up to the task, and like any truly great pianist makes [the preludes] sound easy. He also plays with real authority and combines his trademark musical intelligence with both fire and tenderness. Very highly recommended.” Chris O'Reilly, Presto Classical, April 2009