The complete piano works by Sir Michael Tippett only fill the space of 2 CDs, but their sense of power and diversity are so great, that recording them in their entirety is nothing less than a formidable challenge.
Steven Osborne rises to this daunting task with confidence and audacity and the results are simply breathtaking, particularly in the Piano Concerto, considered as one of the most important concertos of the second half of the 20th century with its humane vision and expressive potential which made audiences sit up and applaud.
The First Sonata and Handel Fantasia are fiery and spontaneous, but although the Sonata's slow movement has hints of Hindemith, both pieces distinctly convey Tippett's early style, which leaned towards the romantic language of form and melody.
Sonatas #2-4 are very difficult works and at first glance seem awkward and almost unplayable, but repeated listening reaps rich dividends, as one is permitted to share the composer's inwardness and emotional turmoil.
This set is not a journey for the squeamish with its stark and mostly dark-hued textures, but it should definitely appeal to all 20th-century piano aficionados, particularly fans of tippet. Ian Kemp's invigorating essay and Hyperion's splendid sound complete a memorable issue which should not be missed.
Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech