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Stephen Hough’s Dream Album: Works by Liszt, Hough, Dohnányi et al

Stephen Hough (Hyperion)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Stephen Hough’s Dream Album
Works by Liszt, Hough, Dohnányi, Dvořák, Minkus, Elgar, Mompou, Chaminade, Seymer, Love, Coates, Sibelius, Albéniz, Solovyov-Sedoy, Ponce, Tate and Isserlis
Stephen Hough (piano)
Hyperion CDA 68176 80:03 mins

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A picture by Hieronymus Bosch on the cover doesn’t bode well for Stephen Hough’s dream life, though the 27 dreams rounded up for the polymath pianist’s latest quirky recital actually offers little but the benign. Childhood memories are summoned, plus people and places. Ten of the selection are composed, adapted or transcribed by Hough himself, beginning with a delightful spin round Johann Strauss Sr’s Radetzky March, nimbly reworked as a waltz. Indeed, there’s so much playfulness and charm here that the listener might well pant for some extra ballast from meatier things. It comes eventually from ‘Harmonies du soir’ and the F minor Etude from Liszt’s Transcendental Studies, both of them majestically, opulently despatched. There’s also Dohnányi’s C major Rhapsody, a virtuoso showstopper stunningly performed by Hough in the very best kind of recorded sound: richly textured, rounded, warm, with seemingly infinite depth.

But still the lighter items dominate. Sometimes their delights passed me by, as with Hough’s rumba version of Waltzing Matilda. Mostly, though, it’s hard not be smitten by the first-class musicianship, delicacy and fancy twinkling and winking through the Minkus transcriptions, or the genuine feeling bubbling up in Dvořák’s Humoresque, Elgar’s Salut d’amour, or Richard Tauber’s sentimental hit number Das alte Lied. We end appropriately with Mompou’s Jeunes filles au jardin – hauntingly wistful and enigmatic, one of the first pieces that Hough ever learned. A sweet album, this, superbly played and recorded; though I do wonder how many times purchasers would play it all in one go.

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Geoff Brown