No hesitations when the opportunity popped up to purchase this set. The pianist was already known to me; the set had received universal rave reviews; and it was a Hyperion release--meaning the sound and presentation would be, as always, first rate.
On every count this is probably the most memorable recording of the piano concerto I've encountered (and I think I've heard them all). I would have purchased the set for this piece alone. The sound is warm but permits detail--perfectly suiting Osborne's undeniable affinity for the composer's dense and opulant scoring. The Handel Fantasia--a piece I'd never warmed to--finally sounds convincing here. For those unfamiliar with Tippet these are intelligently accessible pieces and not modernistic arcana. The concerto is flat out beautiful and the finale is jazzy in an unselfconscious way--it's likely one of the great piano concertos of the last century. (Tippett, later in his career, was sometimes awkward and even embarrassing when he tried to incorporate non-jazz pop music elements into his music, although time will tell).
The performances of the sonatas are superb. Osbourne gets everything possible out of the early #1--in my mind elevating it to nearly great Tippett (and making me renew my suspicion that Tippett is the composer Bernstein could have been if he hadn't been so self-conscious). #2 is played magnificently, again grabbing me in a way it never had before. I'm still soaking in the remaining sonatas (they are new to me), but rather than encountering that "Im not sure" problem I (and apparently others too) have with unfamiliar and especially late Tippett, the immediate sense is that these are pieces well worth getting to know. Osborne has a spontaneity that suits this music perfectly and isn't encountered too often, to the detriment of the composer's reputation. I'd almost recommend this set as an introduction to Tippett's music, especially for someone who loves the piano. Again, for those unfamiliar with the music, it's complex, heavily influenced by jazz, and surprisingly accessible to anyone willing to give it a chance. There are times when I think Tippett's piano music would do well with Keith Jarrett fans.
The other reviewer (only one other review!) complains about the sound, giving this wonderful set an absolutely absurd two-star rating. In my comment on that review I noted that the reviewer elsewhere admitted to owning a small and inexpensive stereo system. 'Nuff said. Regardless, the first thing anyone should check if they encounter poor sound with any new CD release from a highly respected classical label (Hyperion is near god-like is some minds) is their %$!@# stereo. Maybe give the player a cleaning. Also try the %$!@# CD on another, and hopefully better, system before rushing off and writing a sour review on Amazon. The classical music market is in meltdown, all these labels are hurting, and reviewers need to be more responsible so that in ten years they still HAVE classical product to review.