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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67711/2
Recording details: September 2009
Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Andrés Villalta
Release date: April 2010
Total duration: 28 minutes 19 seconds

'Hough plays with a brilliance that conveys delicacy of feelign as well as virtuosity and power' (The Mail on Sunday)

'The electrifying pace Hough injects into the codas of No 1 and the Concert Fantasia are suitably exciting, though these are nothing compared to the tumultuous final pages of No 2 (a tremendous performance). The audience whoops in amazement … this is a great recording—no doubt about that—and one which, if there is any justice, will garner any number of awards' (Gramophone)

'Anyone who heard Stephen Hough's barnstorming performances of all the Tchaikovsky piano concertos at last year's Proms will want to own these CDs … Osmo Vänskä's suave direction of the Minnesota players allows Hough's brilliance to shine through' (The Observer)

'[Concerto no 1] is injected with exhilharation, the bravura tempered with limpid lyricism … this set is a worthy tribute to the longevity of Hyperion's series' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Stephen Hough's account of the First Piano Concerto, dazzling as it may be, is only one of the highlights in this exceptional collection of all of Tchaikovsky's works for piano and orchestra … Hough's ability to strip off the layers of varnish from a work so that it recaptures much of its startling freshness is remarkable, and his combination of bravura swagger and the most fastidious care with line and texture is utterly convincing' (The Guardian)

'Stephen Hough, without rival in bringing new life to popular repertoire with a romantic sweep … with Hough at the keys, the First Concerto becomes no warhorse taken for a dutiful trot but a freshly imagined masterpiece bouncing with surprises and invention. Beyond Hough's crystalline clarity, dash and power, Vänskä displays complete mastery of the music's architecture, engineering tension particularly well in the finale's hurly burly … but it's the set's lesser pieces that offer the most revelations … the Second Concerto flourishes as never before' (The Times)

'Brilliantly played but thoughtfully reconsidered interpretations … he achieves the remarkable feat of not making the B flat major concerto sound remotely hackneyed. Sparks fly thanks to his outstanding conductor … he makes the strongest possible case for the restoration of the neglected and often reviled G major concerto (No 2)' (The Sunday Times)

'No mere warhorse anymore, the concerto here rises in integrity while Hough time and time again reminds us that this is his carefully considered take on the score… Vänskä is a fine accompanist. A musician who himself revels in rethinking scores, it is as if Hough has met his dream soul mate… the fire comes from Hough's determination; his conductor sticks with him all the way… the audience's enthusiastic reaction says it all… a fitting 50th volume celebration to a series of major importance' (Fanfare, USA)

'Hough has virtuosity to burn and shows it on his recording of the three concertos and Concert Fantasia. But he is also an artist of uncommon sensitivity and taste. Moreover, his recording has the advantage of offering the uncut Second Concerto plus, on supplemental tracks, the seriously cut version of the second movement by Alexander Siloti and his own uncut, but modified, version of the same movement' (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, USA)

Concert Fantasia in G major, Op 56
1884; inspired by the playing of Eugen d'Albert; first performed by Sergei Taneyev

Other recordings available for download
Tatiana Nikolayeva (piano), USSR State Symphony Orchestra, Kyrill Kondrashin (conductor)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Concert Fantasia, popular during Tchaikovsky’s lifetime, fell out of the repertoire and has languished in relative obscurity. It was inspired by the playing of Eugen d’Albert, a Glasgow-born pianist then in his twenties who was causing waves of excitement throughout Europe (he later moved to Germany and switched to composition, writing several successful operas as well as two piano concertos of his own). Liszt thought of him as the next Tausig, while Tchaikovsky felt he was a successor to the Rubinstein brothers. Tchaikovsky initially planned to write a regular concerto, but soon hit on the idea of merging the slow movement with the finale, resulting in a two-movement work. The chosen title of ‘Fantasia’ left Tchaikovsky free to experiment in other ways. The first theme eschews the weight normally given to a sonata-form first subject, and instead proceeds as a dance à la russe, with the light and sparkling quality of many a Tchaikovsky finale. The second theme provides a lyrical contrast as normal, but the development section takes the form of a huge piano cadenza, with the burden of the symphonic argument entrusted to the pianists’ two hands. This is not the first time we have seen Tchaikovsky allocating substantial passages of development to the soloist alone, but here this idea is taken to an extreme. Eventually, when we have almost forgotten about the orchestra, the movement resumes as if nothing had happened.

The second movement is even more determinedly odd, and Tchaikovsky felt it needed the title ‘Contrastes’, as a signal to the public that the normal rules were in abeyance. It begins as a standard slow movement, with a beautiful Italianate theme, perhaps a gondolier’s song. But the song is interrupted by fast dance music with a tambourine beat in the background, forming the first of the advertised contrasts, in tempo, metre and key. The song returns, and then the dance once again, in almost cinematic cuts, prompting us to imagine some kind of carnival scene. This striking design and the abundance of virtuosity might have fitted well with d’Albert’s showmanship, but Tchaikovsky’s chosen pianist was once again unavailable to premiere the piece and the trusty Taneyev successfully filled the breach.

from notes by Marina Frolova-Walker © 2010

Other albums featuring this work
'Tatiana Nikolayeva – Tchaikovsky' (APR5666)
Tatiana Nikolayeva – Tchaikovsky
MP3 £6.99FLAC £6.99ALAC £6.99 APR5666  Download only  

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