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This richly inclusive recital is given with such a rare balance of sense and sensitivity that it prompts you to re-think Debussy’s incomparable genius – the revolutionary nature of his soundscape. Following his earlier Hyperion recording of the 24 Préludes, Steven Osborne opens with the triptych formed by Masques, D’un cahier d’esquisses and L’isle joyeuse. In Masques he is brilliantly responsive to its whirling progress and to a quasi-oriental close, strange even by Debussy’s standards. Osborne’s way with L’isle joyeuse is scintillating and vivacious. If the final apotheosis hardly suggests Claudio Arrau’s mischievous advice (‘it must be like an orgasm’), it is suitably grand and exultant.

In ‘Mouvement’ (Images, Book 1) Osborne captures all of Debussy’s instruction ‘to be played with a fantastic and precise lightness’; and in Book 2, a cool tempo in ‘Cloches à travers les feuilles’ lends an additional sense of a timeless and archaic mystery. Yet if I was to single out one performance it would have to be ‘Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut’ where Osbourne achieves an unforgettable sense of stillness and focus. His ‘Poissons d’or’ are lithe rather than over-fed in their ‘piscine acrobatics’ (Roger Nichols in his superb sleeve-note). In ‘Jardins sous la pluie’ (Estampes) the clouds scud across the garden-scape before a blinding blaze of sunlight while in ‘Dr Gradus ad Parnassum’ from the Children’s Corner suite,

Osborne’s subtlety is a far cry from the virtuoso excess of, say, Rachmaninov or William Kapell. ‘Jimbo’s Lullaby’ passes through nightmare to snoring contentment while an unmistakable sense of nostalgia for a a world of childhood fantasy is erased in a ‘Golliwog’s Cake-walk’ of exuberance and aplomb. Even in a crowded marketplace this finely recorded disc is a memorable addition to the Debussy catalogue.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing