Stephen Hough plays Schumann and Dvořák Piano Concertos

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COMPOSERS: Antonín Dvorák,Robert Schumann
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Schumann • Dvořák
WORKS: Piano Concertos
PERFORMER: Stephen Hough (piano); City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons
CATALOGUE NO: Hyperion CDA 68099


This was a comparative review between Stephen Hough and Ingrid Fliter's recordings of Schumann's Piano Concerto. To view details of Ingrid Fliter's Schumann and Mendelssohn, please click here

‘We must confidently await the genius who will show us a brilliant new way of combining orchestra and piano,’ wrote Schumann in 1839. That genius turned out to be Schumann himself, as cellist Steven Isserlis points out in his personable and informative sleeve notes to Stephen Hough’s new concerto disc. Schumann’s 1845 Piano Concerto has a musical integrity and poetic individuality that makes it stand out from the virtuosic showpieces of his contemporaries. It’s been recorded countless times yet on the evidence of two fine new recordings – one from Hough, the other from Ingrid Fliter – there’s still room for something fresh to be said with this evergreen music.

Hough joins forces with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons for a robust, grand reading that nonetheless leaves room for lyricism and introspection – sometimes rather too much so, as in the almost sagging Allegro affettuoso. But it’s in the Dvořák Piano Concerto in G minor – long neglected but rescued by the great Sviatoslav Richter – that Hough truly sparkles. There’s glowing tenderness, irresistible buoyancy and soaring grandeur in the first movement, Grieg-like lyricism in the Andante sostenuto and Tchaikovskian dialogue with the wind, while the Finale has infectious spirit. The CBSO’s playing is smart and colourful.

It’s Mendelssohn’s turn to step into the spotlight with Fliter’s disc: she chooses his First Piano Concerto, also in G minor, to partner the Schumann.‘Original to almost overflowing,’ said one critic of the piece at the time, but it’s rarely heard in concert now although there are plenty of good recordings of it to choose from, not least by Stephen Hough. In both the Mendelssohn and Schumann, Fliter plays with tautness and energy, fitting hand-in-glove with the smaller chamber-orchestra forces of the SCO and drier recorded sound. Heartfelt and intelligent, this is life-enhancing music, and as a bonus there’s The Fair Melusina Overture.


Rebecca Franks