Up Close with Steven Osborne (Vancouver Recital Society article)

steven_osborne_piano_tips Steven Osborne’s poetic playing has made him one of the most accomplished and highly regarded pianists of his generation. We came across an interesting interview Steven gave to Pianist Magazine in Fall, 2013. We’ve included an excerpt of the interview below to give you an insight into what makes Steven ‘tick’.

 If you could play only one piece in the whole repertoire from now on, what would it be?

Messiaen’s Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus

If you could play only one composer from now on, whom would you choose?


One pianist, dead or alive, you’d travel long and far to hear?

Beethoven, improvising.

One concert hall you’d love to play in?

The Wigmore Hall. To me, it’s the greatest.

Any technical struggles?

Fast octaves, particularly in the right hand. And the filigree stuff Rachmaninov does – I have to work quite hard on that kind of finger technique.

If you weren’t a pianist, what would you be?

Maybe a masseur or a physiotherapist – I’ve got strong hands! My wife’s always asking for foot rubs, which apparently I do very well.

One person, dead or alive, you’d love to play for?

Maria João Pires.

One composer you’re not quite ready to tackle?

Chopin. I like listening to people who can play it, but I don’t know what to do with it!

What other kinds of music do you like listening to?

Jazz, pop, hip-hop and Pink Floyd.

What would be your advice to an amateur pianist about how to improve?

Practise slowly – really slowly – and for how it feels as much as for how it sounds. My practising improved a lot in the past couple of years. I began thinking about it after Martin Roscoe told me he’d learned the ‘Hammerklavier’ fugue in two to three weeks. I was astonished, because it takes me a long time to learn things and I thought gosh, it must be possible for me to learn things faster than I am doing. So I started thinking a lot about how I structured my practice time and working a lot on a certain kind of physical focus, feeling where it was tense – but you can only do that if you play things slowly. So the thing that’s helped me learn things faster has actually been practising slowly, and very intently, trying to get it to feel good and taking time before speeding up so the habit is really ingrained.