Image: An afternoon with Steven Osborne


Steven Osborne is an internationally acclaimed pianist from Scotland.

School have just begun putting on these ‘formal’ masterclasses, which are funded by a patron of the school. They plan to do them every year with different instruments; this year it’s piano and Steven was the ‘master’ who was taking the class. (It sounds so scary when you put it like that..)

Unfortunately, I was not ready to play anything, which was a shame. But I was there with a pen and notebook, ready to listen to what he had to say. My friends played brilliantly and it was great that there was a variety of repertoire. The majority of them are about to audition for music colleges.

He spoke a lot about defining characters in the music, and also awareness.

Awareness; I have heard this word several times this term, from my piano teacher, my violin teacher and from a talk by David Foster Wallace, ‘This is water’. (On YouTube!)
It is such a simple concept, but physical and mental awareness of your body is paramount. (I’m not just talking about playing techniques obviously.) I’ve only just started being aware of what feels right for my body when playing piano/violin.
When you are younger you naturally learn quicker, so a few years ago things were going okay for me. (But I realised you can only do so much which this type of practice.)
As you get older, people are more critical of you, you are more critical of yourself. Too much thinking going on, with a desire to be musically mature. I really wanted to do better but instead of letting it come as naturally as possible, I forced it upon myself to play difficult passages. Maybe a bit like ‘auto-pilot’. In the end you’re only against yourself.

At the end Steven gave a performance of ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’, by Modest Mussorgsky. It’s an amazing work which is an account of the Mussorgsky’s feelings/mood as he visits an art exhibition. Different movements for each painting. There is also a theme which is played in between the paintings, that represents Mussorgsky walking from artwork to artwork. The ending is extremely powerful and he played it all just… Amazing. (It’s so unfair!)

Tomorrow is Halloween Day at school. I’m going as the Magic Carpet from Aladdin – I’m not on my own in this act, if it wasn’t obvious already – I don’t know how to fix the sheet onto my body. At least we get to throw sponges at teachers.



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