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Gilels was the first champion of Prokofiev’s Eighth Piano Sonata, and Richter premiered the Sixth: Prokofiev’s three ‘War Sonatas’ represented a major musical morale-raiser in the worst days of the Second World War. As the summation of Prokofiev’s piano oeuvre, this triptych makes big demands on the performer, a challenge to which Steven Osborne rises with ease. As ever with this fine Scottish pianist, the articulation has a pellucid clarity, the delicacy of his touch letting each movement bloom in its own way. In the opening ‘Allegro inquieto’ of Sonata No 7 he catches the satanic cackle which was the default mode for Russian composers (particularly Shostakovich) in the dark days of 1942 – and that ‘inquieto’ is the keynote for much of the music here. He honours the ‘precipitato’ instruction for that sonata’s final movement too. The opening movement of the Eighth Sonata, with its Romeo and Juliet echoes, comes over as the soul of tranquillity, while the finale begins in elfin mode and ends in a blaze of magnificence. I can’t imagine a more authoritative – and at the same time more sympathetic – account of these works.

MICHAEL CHURCH Read the full review on Agora Classica


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