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Steven Osborne follows his superb Hammerklavier Sonata with this third Beethoven recital for Hyperion.

Osborne’s nuances and shading are so fine as to be barely perceptible. At the outset of Op 109 his limpid sonority and transparency convey precisely the undertow of tensile strength beneath this music’s outer warmth and lyricism. Th ere is an unfaltering directness and explosive energy in the following Prestissimo and his refinement in the final variations should never be mistaken for plain-sailing.

His enviable poise in the opening of Op 110 offers a true initiation into the transcendentalism of late Beethoven. By contrast, his Allegro molto is as faultlessly controlled as it is fast and furious. You note, too, how Beethoven’s later dolente direction is made all the more expressive and intense when set in relief against a strong, fast- flowing fugue. And when the fugue returns, its wraith-like sense of distance makes the race to the close memorably exultant.

The same virtues of supreme clarity and sensitivity apply equally to Op 111. Osborne offers a magnificent overview this sonata’s polarity between the temporal and spiritual. His Arietta is hushed and reverential yet without a trace of excess, a true ‘drift towards the shores of Paradise’ (in Edward Sackville-West’s poetic words).

An endlessly enlightening album, finely recorded. Essential listening.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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