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Hyperion Records

SACDA67501/2 - Rachmaninov: The Piano Concertos
Photo of Sergei Rachmaninov.
Lebrecht Music and Arts Photo Library
SACDA67501/2

Recording details: May 2004
Eugene McDermott Concert Hall, Morton H Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas, USA
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Jeff Mee
Release date: October 2004
Total duration: 144 minutes 30 seconds

GRAMOPHONE AWARDS 2005, EDITOR'S CHOICE
CD OF THE WEEK (The Sunday Times)
RECORD(S) OF THE YEAR 2004 (The Sunday Times)
CLASSICAL BRIT AWARD 2005 - Critics' Choice CLASSIC FM HALL OF FAME NO. 1

'This is the best set of Rachmaninov Piano Concertos ever recorded. You have no idea how hard I worked not to come to this conclusion, knowing full well just how skeptically such a claim is likely to be received. I compared Stephen Hough to multiple Ashkenazy renditions, to Earl Wild, to Zoltan Kocsis, to Argerich, Rubinstein, Richter, Rodriguez, and Horowitz. I ploughed through several obscure Russian recordings, two cycles on Naxos, and a slew of EMIs. I re-auditioned Pletnev and sampled two separate remasterings of Rachmaninov's own performances. I listened with scores, then waited a few days, and then tried again without them. I played these discs to colleagues, to friends, and to people whose musical judgment I trust as much if not more than my own. But the conclusion was inescapable: there never has been a complete cycle at this level of consistent excellence. There's no doubt about it' (Classicstoday.com)

'These are exhilarating performances, freshly conceived and texturally pristine … With such committed advocacy and technical bravura, Hough's interpretations demand to be heard' (The Sunday Times)

'the freshness and joy in rediscovering well-worn masterpieces are everywhere in evidence in Hough's playing … If you think you have heard these pieces once too often, this is the recording to help you rediscover their intimacies and their emotional sweep' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Hough. Litton. Rachmaninov concertos. Hyperion. Already a mouth-watering prospect, is it not? So, like the old Fry's Five Boys chocolate advert, does Anticipation match Realisation in these five much recorded confections? The answer is 'yes' on almost every level' (Gramophone)

'Overall, these live concert recordings stand out in a field jam-packed with first-rate Rachmaninov concerto cycles' (BBC Music Magazine)

'these rank among the most illuminating—and most compelling—performances in the catalog. Whether you're a Rachmaninov addict looking for fresh perspectives on the music or a neophyte looking for the cycle in up-to-date sound, Hough and Litton can be recommended without hesitation' (Fanfare, USA)

'Hough and Litton are more than scholars: they make living, flaming music from the ebbing and flowing speeds, the soloist's improvisatory airs, or the strings' willingness to revive the old portamento slide. The waves of energy at the finale's end are very exciting: no wonder the Dallas audience break out in cheers' (The Times)

'This is fin-de-siècle musical romance moulded with perception, and Hough himself is on magnificent form … Hough's set takes the palm as the pre-eminent digital edition of the Rachmaninov piano concertos' (The Independent)

'Stephen Hough and Andrew Litton cut a swathe through the decades-long undergrowth of bad tradition, revealing leaner, more potent works in the process … A terrific achievement' (Evening Standard)

'Hough's melodic subtlety is well matched by conductor Andrew Litton, and even Rachmaninophobes will be won over by their Paganini Rhapsody' (Independent on Sunday)

'Hough shares with Rachmaninov a precision, a rhythmic energy, a quite beautiful singing tone and—perhaps most important in these dense textures—an unerring clarity … A superb achievement, and that's all that needs to be said' (International Record Review)

'These are outstanding performances. The recordings capture the excitement of the live concerts, including applause at the end of the concertos but there's very little audience noise and the sound is thrilling and immediate. This is a release that's bound to win all the awards' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Stephen Hough is a pianist of immense finesse, who is incapable of playing a vulgar or exaggerated note. And he has a steely technique, secure enough to carry him through four live recordings—which these are—with barely a slip … this is a wonderful release' (The Times The Eye)

'an electrifying double-disc set' (The Scotsman)

'The spark of these live performances has survived inevitable patching sessions to place Stephen Hough's complete account of Rachmaninov's works for piano and orchestra into the top flight' (Music Week)

'carefully considered interpretations despatched with consummate musicianship and virtuosity, and using as their inspiration Rachmaninov's own recordings' (Mail on Sunday)

'What Hough has come up with is much fleeter and leaner than the overripe romantic effects usually lavished on these concertos … he keeps the music on the move, carefully regulating its ebb and flow, so that Rachmaninov’s melodies float above the harmonic feints and sidesteps … As fine as anything Hough has done on disc to date' (The Guardian)

'An exciting new Rachmaninov set that's definitely not to be missed' (HMV Choice)

The Piano Concertos
Stephen Hough (piano), Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Litton (conductor) 2CDs Super-Audio CD Deleted  
CD1
Movement 1: Vivace  [12'27]
CD2

Ever since we started working with Stephen in 1996 recording these concertos has been on the agenda: it’s probably been the project closest to his heart. But it took several years before we found the orchestra and conductor that we felt would do justice to this important project.

The combination of Dallas and Litton offers a conductor who adores Rachmaninov (he has recorded all the symphonies) and understands the works from a pianist’s perspective, an orchestra with a glorious and old-fashioned string sound of the kind with which the composer would be familiar, a hall to record in which is one of the best in the world, and let’s not forget Stephen Hough who has already won two Gramophone ‘Record of the Year’ accolades for his concerto recordings. As the results here triumphantly show, all our hopes have been fulfilled, and more.

Apart from the ‘Paganini Rhapsody’, recorded after a concert performance, these are essentially ‘live’ recordings. Over a period of eighteen days eleven concerts were given, with each concerto being played several times. From these we have pieced together an ‘ideal’ performance—free of coughs, noises and the few musical mishaps which occurred, but still capturing the excitement of what was, by common consent, a sensational series of concerts.

These days a new recording of the Rachmaninov concertos has to be very special for it to be worth doing at all and it was not lightly that Hyperion proceeded with this project. Stephen’s very conscious return to the fast and lean performance tradition of the composer himself, avoiding the sentimental ‘Hollywood’ approach that has become so prevalent, coupled with the supreme level of the performances themselves has truly created a Rachmaninov cycle for the new millennium!

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