WORKS: Variations sérieuses; Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111; waltzes
PERFORMER: Stephen Hough (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67686
The individual items on this disc gave me almost unalloyed pleasure. Stephen Hough is one of the UK’s most thoughtful and interesting pianists. The Mendelssohn Variations come over as truly ‘sérieuses‘, on a par with anything by his friend Schumann, thanks to Hough’s vivid characterisation and dramatic flair.
And if the ‘Arietta’ of the Beethoven Sonata does not quite reach this level, it is partly because an over-brightness in the treble lends a somewhat strenuous edge to some of the loudest passages. But Hough’s control of the different stands is little short of miraculous.
‘This recital divides in the middle to form two, highly contrasting, mini-recitals,’ he notes. Indeed it does. But after listening twice to the whole disc, I still can’t see the point of following two profound masterpieces with a 40-minute group of waltzes.
Quite apart from the rough change of aesthetic gear, such a long stretch of um-cha-cha triple time is hard going. A disc for dipping into. But the Mendelssohn is exceptional. Roger Nichols