A BRILLIANT PIANIST IN AN UNFAMILIAR SETTING
Jorge Federico Osorio, piano; Roy Barnett Recital Hall, UBC, May 24, 2013
One of the very first concerts that I reviewed four years ago was that of the wonderful Brazilian pianist, Nelson Freire. That memorable concert took place not in the Chan Centre or the Playhouse but rather in North Vancouver's Centennial Theater, sponsored by the Vancouver Chopin Society. Now we have a gala piano recital sponsored by the Mexican Consulate featuring probably Mexico's most outstanding pianist over the past 40 years, Jorge Federico Osorio. Set in the UBC recital hall, the concert was essentially a celebration for the local Mexican community.
And what a celebration it was! Osorio is a magnificent pianist, articulate and immediately communicative, with some of the passion and grandeur of artists of an earlier era. I first learned of him in the late 1980's from his outstanding Brahms recital (on ASV DCA 616), acclaimed in the most distinguished circles. Since then he has gone on to record more than 30 CD's and holds a truly enviable reputation with piano specialists.
The concert began with a fresh and vital reading of Mozart's C Major Sonata, K. 330. This was not the 'pretty' playing that some pianists favour for this composer; fairly big-scale, but keenly aware of structural contrast and attuned to all the little emotional variations that come up. The slow movement had strong projection and Osorio clearly loved all the wit and play in the closing Allegretto. It is always an occasion to hear Beethoven's last (32nd) piano sonata, and again Osorio did not disappoint. The commanding power of the opening chords really took me back to grand masters such as Rudolph Serkin and Claudio Arrau, and throughout, Osorio demonstrated that he knew exactly where he was going, blending structural power and serene quiet beauty in convincing proportion. Overall, Osorio's playing shows a strong emotional commitment to the music with the genuine ability to touch real feelings. The only possible downside is that, as the pianist heats up, he does tend to subconsciously push phrases forward with increased speed and urgency. Exciting to watch but sometimes I did wish for a little more control.
It is always great to hear Spanish music played by the Spanish; they instinctively know all the subtleties of rhythm and feeling. The second part of the concert started with three sonatas by Padre Antonio Soler, an 18th C. composer who should be better known, played with all the cunning and flair that one could ask for. The short pieces by Ponce, Castro and Albeniz all have a Chopinesque feeling to them. Osorio got right inside their special Spanish accent, following this with the tour-de-force 'Prelude and Fugue on a Theme by Handel' by Ponce. What a powerful line and rich piano tone the pianist achieved in the latter!
The concert deserved and received a very enthusiastic response. One of the encores, a short Brahms Intermezzi, took me right back to the mastery of his original CD 25 years ago, playing so perfectly attuned to Brahms' rhapsodic melancholy.
© Geoffrey Newman 2013