Grieg: Piano Concerto in A minor; Liszt: Piano Concertos Nos.1 & 2 Import
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Did I really need yet another recording of the above mentioned concertos by Grieg and Liszt that are contained in this recording? After listening to this very fine recording by Stephen Hough and the forces mentioned above, the answer is a resounding YES. Hough plays these very well known works brilliantly with astounding flashes of technical bravado along with "heartfelt" tenderness--his technique is awesome. At the same time, I felt that I was hearing especially the Grieg for the first time. In the aforesaid work, to me, Hough has stripped away a lot of that work's so-called "traditions" Instead we are left with much clarity and lightness that sounds, to me, what I imagine were Grieg's intentions. Don't misunderstand me and be assured that there is "jaw dropping" brilliance on display that Stephen Hough most assuredly delivers. The same applies to the Liszt concertos which I am afraid to admit have never been particular favorites of mine.Read more ›
Critics tend to compare pianists with legendary elders (Volodos is the new Horowitz; Brendel was the new Schnabel, etc.). Stephen Hough reminds me not so much of any pianist as of a conductor: Arturo Toscanini. No, Hough is not temperamental like the Italian Maestro. But his approach to music interpretation seems to be to discard traditional tempo changes, rubatos, and the like (which Toscanini derided as "the last bad performance"), study the score as if it were being played for the first time, and make any interpretive decisions on that basis.
Hough's rendition of the Liszt E-flat Concerto effectively melds virtuoso fireworks in the outer movements, with melting poetry in the second. I've seldom heard those first movement octaves tossed off with such sharpness. Too often, I've heard pianists play the second movement flatly, passing time until they can move on to the "fun" parts. Not here - Hough makes it seem like we're encountering this music for the first time. The finale is given at a steadier tempo than customary, so the structure of the piece emerges clearly - not something Liszt often gets credit for. Those tricky repeated note passages are played to perfection, unlike Arthur Rubinstein's two recordings where they sound garbled.Read more ›
Let me start by saying that I generally love Hough's recordings, and indeed treasure many of them in my library. His bravura technique is always at the service of the music and not used for ostentatious display, likewise his colorization and sensitivity of the notes he's playing.
However, I have noticed that sometimes when he tackles war horses, such as these three concerti, more than occasional agogic moments come to the fore, whether to make unusual emphasis of certain notes or chords which I feel interrupts the natural flow of the music slightly and can seem to be intentionally done causing attention to the pianist, rather than letting the notes proceed normally. Frankly, I feel this is often an unnecessary distraction to the listener, and here particularly in the Grieg concerto.
Otherwise, Hough plays beautifully as one would expect. Andrew Litton conducts the excellent Bergen Philharmonic, and it is wonderfully recorded in splendid sound.
For those listeners who might prefer a more virtuoso performance however, I would recommend the spectacular SACD performance of Arnaldo Cohen of the Liszt concertos, or the classic performances by Sviatoslav Richter or Byron Janis. For the Grieg concerto, try the poetic Leif Ove Andsnes who is generally held to play it better than anyone else.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I definitely love both of these concerto recordings. I agree with the other reviewers1Published 15 months ago by Paul Vohra
Mr. Hough is an amazing technician, and the pieces he plays in this recording really allow him to display his prowess and that of these 2 great composers.Published on March 12, 2014 by BKM
Who wouldn't appreciate these concertos by Grieg and Liszt. Absolutely beautiful.
The northland is made understandable with Grieg's treatment of it. Read more
Stephen Hough is still relatively little-known in the US. I think he is beyond compare with any other pianist on the concert circuit today. Read morePublished on September 10, 2013 by Irma Sheon