Piano Concertos, Nights in the Gardens of Spain
Steven Osborne p, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Morlot
Hyperion CDA68148

Ravel and Falla make an apt pairing. Having studied in Madrid, the Spanish Falla was living in Paris when he wrote his Nights in the Gardens of Spain and it was there that he played piano duets with Ravel. Scottish pianist Steven Osborne has bookended Falla’s Nights with Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G and the brooding Piano Concerto for Left Hand, joined by Ludovic Morlot and the BBC Scottish Symphony, in a disc that speaks more in subtle shades of colour than concerto grandiosity.

Osborne shimmers effervescently in the opening of Ravel’s Allegremente, the piccolo dancing above. The piano emerges and recedes from the spotlight, as much a part of the overall texture as a solo voice. The slow movement is all delicate restraint while Osborne bubbles along in the finale, amidst biting brass and wind interjections.

Osborne’s understated approach adds an extra sense of mystery to Falla’s Nights – the composer described the three movements as “symphonic impressions” – and the pianist here captures a sense of veiled Nocturne-like haziness, which erupts into wilder moments of movement and drama, Morlot leading the orchestra through lushly swelling crescendos.

Ravel’s Concerto for Left Hand, which he wrote parallel to the G Major closes the disc on a slightly sombre note – though Osborne brings a jaunty shuffle to the dancing moments and smeary Blues figures.

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