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Hyperion Records

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Garden of Eden (oil on linen) by Anthony Mastromatteo (b?)
Reproduced by kind permission of the artist / Private Collection
Track(s) taken from CDA67598
Recording details: November 2006
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: March 2008
Total duration: 15 minutes 25 seconds

'There are all too few pianists with the equivalent of Hough's three Michelin stars … opening with two of Mozart's solo masterpieces, the ear is welcomed into an intimate, pellucid sound world with a sophistcated grading of dynamics … [Liszt-Busoni Fantasy on Non piu andrai] provides a hair-raising bravura display that deserves to be heard more often. At least, when played like this' (Gramophone)

'A bold and dramatic account of Mozart's K475 C minor Fantasia opens this memorable and imaginatively devised recital. While emphasising the prophetically romantic nature of the music, Stephen Hough takes great care not to overplay its more forceful passages … the final party piece, the Liszt/Busoni Fantasia on themes from The Marriage of Figaro, is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser given an exhilharating performance guaranteed to bring the house down' (BBC Music Magazine)

'A scintillating exploration of Mozartian style in tribute works by other composers. Easily the most attractive is by Stephen Hough himself, who takes three small pieces and reinvents them in the style of Poulenc. The result is a seductive, spicy and totally original addition to the genre, and a nice counterweight to the Liszt-Busoni Figaro fantasia, which the prodigiously talented Hough plays with his trademark intensity' (The Observer)

'We look forward to Hough's recordings. They are never disappointing, and this one is a classic. With excellent engineering and Harriet Smith's very informative notes, only those who do not value great pianism can afford to miss it' (American Record Guide)

'Hyperion's imaginative new collection shows this protean artist to be equally at home in the Classical repertoire. Not surprisingly, he offers romantic and highly pianistic Mozart … the result is a trio of performances of splendid variety … the recital ends rousingly with Liszt's Figaro Fantasia. Compared to the other post-Mozartian rarities, of course, this is standard fare—but it sounds freshly minted in this improvisatory reading … notable for his revelatory inner-line clarity even in the most congested textures and for his ability to reveal the underlying gestures in passages, that, even in Gilels' hands, emerge as a mere blur of notes. Excellent Hyperion sound and useful notes by Harriet Smith only add to the virtues of this first-rate release' (International Record Review)

'In a typically well-made progamme, the compelling British pianist springboards of Mozart into a series of tributes. The virtuoisic challenges are handled with liquid clarity and intelligent expression. Mesmerising in the Mozart, the transition to a more modern take comes surprisingly fluently' (The Times)

'Here's another winning, imaginatively conceived disc from Britain's finest pianist … it is unexpected and delightful programme-building. Prized for his pianism, Hough is also a superb Mozartian. He lends these Fantasias an almost Beethovenian weight and depth of expression … Hough's playing is dazzling throughout' (The Sunday Times)

'A new record from Stephen Hough is always something to look foward to, and A Mozart Album is no exception … altogether an outsanding disc released by Hyperion' (Liverpool Daily Post)

'Hough's Mozart playing is so fresh, so sensitive to the harmonic twists and the way the prase can simultaneously suggest different feelings … this 2006 Keener and Eadon production from St George's, Bristol, is impeccably presented, with a congenial note by Harriet Smith' (International Piano)

'In this deft tribute to Mozart's genius, splendid pianist Stephen Hough leads with a pair of the composer's own works before segueing into transcriptions, homages and his own Poulenc-inflected 'transformations'. Hough is incapable of an unengaging performance, as he demonstrates right off with an account of the Fantasia in C minor, K475 that pulls back from stormy drama for something more tactfully measured and delicate. An unfinished Liszt fantasia on 'The Marriage of Figaro' music, amended by Busoni, gets a wittily theatrical treatment' (San Francisco Chronicle)

'Stephen Hough generally does not disappoint in terms of programming … [his]Mozart is exemplary, with the Fantasias approached with a free sense of tempo and a careful attention to the dynamic contrasts and articulations in the score … the pendant piece is the Liszt-Busoni fantasia on themes from Marriage of Figaro, in which Hough displays his considerable technical wizardry and whimsical attention to details' (IonArts.com)

'[Hough] is certainly one of today's most thoughtful and thought-provoking pianists, as his latest thematic Hyperion set underscores … playing with a mix of depth and detail that only the best pianists achieve … he connects kindred spirits in a witty, lovely way' (The Star-Ledger, USA)

Fantasia on two themes from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro
composer
late 1842; unfinished; Fantasie über Themen aus Figaro und Don Giovanni, S697
composer
1912; completion and reworking, omitting Giovanni themes; the arias used are Figaro's 'Non più andrai' and Cherubino's 'Voi che sapete'

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Franz Liszt’s Fantasia dates from late 1842. He seems to have played it just once—in Berlin on 11 January 1843. The piece was left incomplete, lacking an ending, and the manuscript appears to be a work-in-progress, with question marks over certain passages, and no tempo indications or dynamics. Uniquely among Liszt’s opera paraphrases it takes the themes of not one but two operas—The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni—though at no point are they combined, as one might expect. Busoni’s version—renamed Fantasia on two themes from Mozart’s ‘Le nozze di Figaro’—dates from 1912 and is far tauter than Liszt’s original, omitting the Giovanni music altogether and bridging the resulting gap with a ten-bar passage, a simple enough process given that the transition to and from this section is in C major. Busoni also provided sixteen bars to conclude the Fantasia. His touch is subtle, restoring to circulation a forgotten Liszt piece without overlaying his own musical personality too emphatically. Mozart was, for him, a god-like figure, far removed from the earlier nineteenth-century view, and Busoni was among the first to appreciate the true depths of his music.

The Fantasia is based on two arias: ‘Non più andrai’, sung by Figaro to Cherubino as he despatches him off to join a regiment, adding that womenkind will be able to breathe freely once more; and ‘Voi che sapete’, in which Cherubino serenades the Countess and Susanna. The work begins almost nonchalantly, with a snippet of ‘Non più andrai’ which is gradually transformed by Liszt in a substantial introduction full of melodramatic ardour, tremolos and eye-watering virtuosity. ‘Voi che sapete’ then appears complete, in a more lyrical section characterized by a delicacy which gradually warms as the texture increases in complexity and brilliance. The virtuosity, however, is never allowed to obscure the crystalline beauty of Mozart’s aria. Colours darken, tremolos and double octaves build up the tension in a transition passage culminating in a rising scale of double sixths and thirds which heralds the triumphant reappearance of ‘Non più andrai’, marked deciso and later marcatissimo, emphasizing the martial nature of Cherubino’s fate. If Liszt was already unsparing in his demands on the pianist, Busoni adds to these with such instructions as con eleganza in textures thick with notes. Liszt continues to tease, with Figaro’s theme veering off in unexpected harmonic directions until he finally deconstructs it, leaving little more than a rhythmic torso, against motoric left-hand figuration. Busoni attempts no clever tricks in his ending, stylistically remaining utterly in keeping with Liszt.

from notes by Harriet Smith © 2008

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