All products and recordings are chosen independently by our editorial team. This review contains affiliate links and we may receive a commission for purchases made. Please read our affiliates FAQ page to find out more.


Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Masques; D’un cahier d’esquisses; L’isle joyeuse; Images I & II; Estampes; Children’s Corner
PERFORMER: Steven Osborne (piano)


In this substantial album of Debussy’s piano music, Steven Osborne has produced a recording that at its finest is truly mesmerising. His selection of music ranges through the heartlands of the composer’s overtly pictorial works, brought to life with some extremely classy playing, aided by excellent recorded sound.

Osborne has a marvellous control of texture and touch: in Images II you could almost stroke the rustling leaves in ‘Cloches à travers les feuilles’ as the distant bells sound through the foliage, and the ‘Poissons d’or’ flip their glittering way through eddies and whirlpools evoked with gorgeous lightness and a deft rhythmic ebb and flow. Osborne’s rigorous and no-nonsense approach gives the music a good, solid backbone. Occasionally in the loudest and fastest episodes, the tone can become slightly over-pressed; and moments that could use a little more flexibility don’t always get it – ‘La Soirée dans Grenade’ of Estampes is somewhat brusque, and his L’isle joyeuse, though edge-of-seat thrilling, make the lovers in the Watteau painting that inspired the piece appear to be dashing for the last boat. Some of the disc’s finest moments, though, occur in the spare perfectionism of Children’s Corner: here Osborne’s phrasing and pacing is pure and poetic, as well as raptly atmospheric in ‘The snow is dancing’. And it finishes with a deliciously louche cake-walk.

Jessica Duchen


p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 9.5px; font: 8.5px MusicGaramond}
p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-indent: 8.5px; line-height: 9.5px; font: 8.5px MusicGaramond}
span.s1 {font-kerning: none}