Collection: The Piano Album 2

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Assorted
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Music by Czerny, Rubinstein, Rebikov, Liadov, Moszkowski, Godowsky, Tausig, Liebermann, Ravina, .
PERFORMER: Stephen Hough (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: VC 7 59304 2 DDD

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Stephen Hough’s first Piano Album came out five years ago and was something of a novelty, because it revived the cult of the sophisticated salon piece and the virtuoso encore – the sort of things Shura Cherkassky tosses off at the end of a long recital. It’s now reissued, together with a second album of similar delights.

Hough doesn’t have Cherkassky’s outrageous sense of fun – he belongs to a younger, more circumspect generation and makes sure every detail is immaculate. But as well as the most brilliantly polished technique, he has fastidious taste. He woos Rubinstein’s Mélodie in F, a dowdy floozy if ever there was one, as something freshly desirable, lingering long on climactic notes with an air of cool calculation.

If the selection in the second album offers less charm and fewer good tunes than the first, that may be a matter of taste; it certainly makes up in virtuosity. The first and last of Lowell Liebermann’s Gargoyles might sound violent in other hands, but Hough negotiates them with the grace and agility of one who finds their astonishing difficulties quite natural.

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The recording consistently gives the piano a sense of space without the impression of a different acoustic from your own room. Adrian Jack