Due to the sparsity of the rep in the recording catalogue, by default, this disc can boast reference status. There are selections scattered among discs by other pianistic giants such as Hamelin[47,48, and the staccato]. Osborne is one of my favourite pianists today. His rep usually is on the outer edge of the pianistic universe, but his recordings usually turn out to be remarkable, such as his recent Tippett discs, one of the best discs of the year.
Even in more centered rep, such as the Debussy Preludes, Osborne shines and can be compared with the best available. I find myself returning to his Preludes moreso than any recent release on the market.
Turning to this release, a jam packed set of Alkan's complete Esquisses op63, one is immediately aware of the ingenuity of pieces. Listening in order, as the recording fortunetely provides, is like riding a rollercoaster for the first time-there are virtuosic twists and turns, beautiful sonority's far ahead of their time, and delicious morsels that will make you laugh at loud or make your jaw drop from one track to the next.
True, Osborne is not Hamelin. But Hamelin is not Osborne either. Both have superior ability-Hamelin might have the greatest 'chops' on the planet-but that has not helped him for pieces such as Schumann's Etude Symphonique or Beethoven's op109[available on Boston Radio archive-though it is a devil of a performance at a speed faster than I have ever heard].
Hamelin might be better revealing clarity amongst thick textures, or achieving impossible legato with far seperated chords with sparse pedal, but I enjoy the romance of Osbornes playing, the one thing that Hamelin seems not yet to have mastered and one of the rare qualities that cant be taught.
Because these pieces are so valuable to pianados, and because having them complete played at the highest level, this disc gets the highest honors possible and should be a must for anyone interested Alkan, or superb pianism, plain and simple.