OLD & NEW WORLD MASTERPIECES

Steven Osborne

Crucible Playhouse, Sheffield
Thursday 15 February 2024, 7.15pm

Tickets
£21 
£14 UC, DLA or PIP
£5 Under 35s & Students 

Past Event

R SCHUMANN Arabesque in C major Op.18 (7’)
DEBUSSY Children’s Corner (17’)
DEBUSSY Two Arabesques (7’)
R SCHUMANN Kinderszenen Op.15 (19’)
BAUER From the New Hampshire Woods, Op.12 No.1 ‘White Birches’ (3’)
MONK Railroad (3’)
RZEWSKI Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues (10’)
STEVEN OSBORNE Improvisations (10’)
JARRETT My Song (7’)
EVANS I Loves You Porgy (6’)
PETERSON Indiana (4’) 

One of the world’s most sought-after pianists on stage and in the recording studio, Steven Osborne OBE has received numerous prestigious awards, including The Royal Philharmonic Society Instrumentalist of the Year, two BBC Music Magazine Awards and two Gramophone Awards.

He makes his long-awaited return to the Crucible Playhouse, performing some of the most popular piano masterpieces by Robert Schumann and Debussy. These are followed by a thrilling journey through 20th century Americana, taking in the span of sophisticated jazz and folk cultures. By the end of this concert, you’ll fully understand why so many say that Steven Osborne is a pianist who really can play anything and everything! 

Includes free post-concert Q&A.


Please note, tickets from Steven’s postponed March 2023 concert have been reissued for this new date. 

Save £s when you book for 5 Music in the Round concerts or more at the same timeFind out more here.

View the brochure for our Sheffield 2024 concerts online here or download it below.

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SCHUMANN Robert, Arabesque in C major Op.18

Schumann composed his Arabeske in Vienna in 1839, having moved to the city from Leipzig the year before. It appears that he felt somewhat intimidated by Vienna’s immense musical history, and wrote in a letter that he wished to distance himself from any comparison with his predecessors, especially Beethoven. So this Arabeske is deliberately simple in style, even veering towards childish naivety: just a lightly decorated stream of notes, which has become a favourite addition to many great pianists’ programmes.

 

© Music in the Round

DEBUSSY Claude, Children’s Corner

Dedicated to ‘my dear little Chou-Chou, with her father’s tender excuses for what follows’, Children’s Corner was written in 1908 and dedicated to his daughter Claude-Emma. However, it was never intended as a piece for children to play, and the suite was introduced to the Parisian musical public by the virtuoso pianist Harold Bauer on 18 December 1908. Aside from its technical demands, another reason why this is not really ‘children’s’ music is its sophisticated use of parody and quotation: a send–up of Clementi in the first movement, a quotation from a nursery rhyme in the second, and a wonderfully outrageous reference to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde in the final Cakewalk. There’s a rather tragic postscript to the story of the dedication: Chou-Chou died aged only fourteen, a year after Debussy himself.

Nigel Simeone © 2012

DEBUSSY Claude, Two Arabesques

Debussy was still in his twenties when he composed these two short pieces, and from a time before he created works that began to draw comparisons with the Impressionist artists, a comparison he never acknowledged himself. At the time he wrote his Arabesques in the 1890s, Art Nouveau was changing the face of Paris, and this seems to have been more an influence on Debussy than Impressionism. Art Nouveau’s simplicity of lines and shapes, rooted in the natural world, was of great appeal to Debussy, which reminded him of music from the French Baroque period, and he once wrote: “That was the age of the ‘wonderful arabesque’ when music was subject to the laws of beauty inscribed in the movements of Nature herself.”

 

© Music in the Round

SCHUMANN Robert, Kinderszenen Op.15

1. Von fremden Ländern und Menschen [Of Foreign Lands and People]
2. Kuriose Geschichte [A Curious Story]
3. Hasche-Mann [Blind-Man’s Bluff]
4. Bittendes Kind [A Pleading Child]
5. Glückes genug [Happy Enough]
6. Wichtige Begebenheit [An Important Event]
7. Träumerei [Dreaming]
8. Am Kamin [At the Fireside]
9. Ritter vom Steckenpferd [A Knight on a Hobby Horse]
10. Fast zu Ernst [Almost Too Serious]
11. Fürchtenmachen [Frightening]
12. Kind im Einschlummern [A Child Falling Asleep]
13. Der Dichter spricht [The Poet Speaks]

Schumann wrote Kinderszenen in February and March 1838. He told the composer Carl Reinecke that they were ‘reminiscences for those who have grown up’ though he also had young players in mind – including his own children. Clara saw them in yet a different light, as intimate love poems: ‘It’s true, isn’t it, that they belong only to the two of us? They are so simple, so heart-warming, so very much you’. Whatever their original inspiration, these pieces capture a kind of lyrical fantasy world, from games to dreams, ending with the solemn moment when ‘The Poet Speaks’. Franz Liszt wrote to tell Schumann that playing Kinderszenen to his young daughter was ‘one of the most invigorating joys of my life.’

© Nigel Simeone 2015

BAUER Marion, From the New Hampshire Woods, Op.12 No.1 ‘White Birches’

Marion Bauer was born in Washington State, and in 1906 she became the first American to study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, one of the last century’s greatest composition teachers. Boulanger struck a deal with Bauer: she’d teach her composition if Bauer would give her English lessons in return. Back in America, Bauer became one of the country’s most important musical figures, as both composer, teacher, and a mover-shaker behind the scenes.

Bauer often visited the Macdowell Colony, an artists’ residency in New Hampshire, which is where she composed this suite, inspired by the local landscape, in 1929.

© Music in the Round

MONK Meredith, Railroad

Meredith Monk was born in New York into a line of musicians on her maternal side: her mother was a well-known singer who performed under the stage name of Audrey Marsh. Even from a young age, Monk had always integrated music with dance, and in the 1960s she formed the avant-garde ensemble The House, dedicated to multi-disciplinary performance. Monk began to experiment with remarkable vocal techniques, and her recordings and live events have been of huge importance to successive generations of experimental musicians, performance artists and film makers.

 

Monk has also composed many miniatures for piano and has cited the jazz pianist Thelonius Monk as a major inspiration. Railroad (Travel Song) dates from 1981

 

© Music in the Round

RZEWSKI Frederic, Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues

As a composer and pianist, Frederic Rzewski’s (pron. Shev-skee) career was marked by works that tackled social issues head on, with a style that was often deliberately confrontational, violent and called on immense physical demands from performers.

The Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues was a song that workers would sing and whistle in the 1930s, whilst at work in a textile factory in South Carolina. The original song opens with the verse:

 

Ol’ man seargent sittin’ at the desk
The damn ol’ fool won’t give us no rest
He’d take the nickels off a dead man’s eyes
To buy a Coca-Cola an’ a eskimo pie.

 

In Rzewski’s version for solo piano, the gorgeous bluesy song emerges out of the mechanical noise of the factory, which the performer has to create using their forearms as well as their hands.

 

© Music in the Round

JARRETT Keith, My Song

Keith Jarrett is one of the giants of modern jazz, who began his career performing with Miles Davis, released the best-selling solo jazz album of all time, and has managed to successfully straddle multiple musical worlds for decades.

My Song is the second track from an album of the same name that Jarrett recorded in Oslo in 1977 with one of his regular collaborators, the Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek. Tonight Steven Osborne will perform his own transcription of My Song.

© Music in the Round

EVANS Bill, I Loves You Porgy

Many of today’s greatest jazz musicians consider Bill Evans to be one of their most important influences, and his legacy as a composer and pianist is truly immense. Evans played in the sextet that recorded Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, and later performed with many influential ensembles. His musical style was guided not only by his jazz predecessors, but also from his childhood piano lessons, where he loved music by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and especially Debussy.

 

I Loves You Porgy is a number from George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess, and Evans made a handful of recordings of gentle, introverted improvisations based on the song, which Steven Osborne has transcribed for his own performances.

 

© Music in the Round

PETERSON Oscar, Indiana

Oscar Peterson was born in Montreal, Canada, and took piano lessons from the Hungarian Paul de Marky, who belonged to a direct line of pianists leading back to Franz Liszt. But it was jazz, especially boogie-woogie, that beguiled Peterson, and after quitting high school he soon became a go-to session player. He was invited to New York to perform in the prestigious series Jazz at the Philharmonic, and then throughout his life toured the world with his many groups, making landmark recordings of live and studio performances.

(Back Home Again in) Indiana is a jazz standard composed by James Hanley in 1917, that has been recorded by many great musicians. With Oscar Peterson, his performances of Indiana were often a way to demonstrate his incredible technique, with almost comical speeds that draw on the older boogie-woogie style he so loved.

© Music in the Round

“He combines relentless perfectionism with surprising wildness… artistry of a very rare order. 

The Telegraph 

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