Please wait...

Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
Keramisch-Mystisch (In der Art eines Stillebens) (1925) by Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67996
Recording details: May 2013
Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: May 2014
Total duration: 18 minutes 23 seconds

'A new disc from Stephen Hough is always welcome. How will he surprise us this time and where will he take us? … there’s the dark and turbulent eponymous tone-poem and the far-from-restful presto finale of the 'Moonlight', given additional agitation by Hough’s spiky left-hand off-beats. The two adroitly chosen Nocturnes show that Chopin’s nocturnal reveries could be as dark and threatening in their own way as Hough’s, if his Sonata notturno luminoso is anything to go by. Angular, dissonant, fiery and often bleak, this work (18’23" in length) suggests, among its many images, ‘the irrational fears or the disturbing dreams which are only darkened by the harsh glare of a suspended, dusty light bulb’ (the composer’s useful route map in a note appended to Harriet Smith’s thoughtful booklet)' (Gramophone) » More

'Hough’s own Sonata … is rich in textural variety and harmonic colour, full of massive chunks of sound like sculpted blocks of marble lit from within, and quirky, obsessive toccatas that whirl by like a runaway roundabout that keeps changing direction. It is unsettling, playful and original … hearing a masterful pianist performing his own work is a special experience in itself … countless details prove rewarding: the smoky pedal in the C sharp minor Nocturne’s transition, the free-flying melodic lines of ‘In der Nacht’, the veiled duskiness of the Moonlight Sonata's opening movement' (BBC Music Magazine) » More
PERFORMANCE
RECORDING

'Hough's Sonata unfolds … with an immediately apparent structural logic and a harmonic vocabulary that conveys vivid emotional narrative. As one would expect from a pianist of Hough’s gifts, textures are imaginative, with plenty of excitement and variety. Interesting from the first hearing, it grows more so with repeated listening. Hough’s musical thinking has the same warmth and communicativeness as his performing persona, so that one looks forward to hearing more … the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata heard here is very good and deeply musical … the two Chopin Nocturnes, Op 27, on the other hand, are ethereal and abundantly poetic.

Though he’s recorded some, I’ve not heard Hough play Schumann before. What a pleasure it is! His Carnaval has great warmth and gentleness, along with appropriate doses of high spirits and antic, even slapstick humour. Extremely original in concept, this interpretation is seasoned throughout with a unique tempo rubato that is both apt and uncannily subtle. I don’t think I’ve sat through another Carnaval that was quite this much fun. You should have a listen' (International Record Review) » More

'Hyperion’s superb recording and Stephen Hough’s burnished sound make this a most appealing disc on the subject of music of the night … Hough gives a ‘Moonlight’ Sonata in a different league … finding cheeky accents in the central Allegretto and presenting an explosive finale. The two Chopin Nocturnes, both beautifully shaded and harmonically aware, precede Hough’s own Second Piano Sonata … Hough is his own finest interpreter, playing with a fierce belief in the score. Finally, Schumann’s Carnaval … the opening gestures are gloriously exuberant, introducing one of the finest readings available' (International Piano) » More

Piano Sonata No 2 'notturno luminoso'
composer

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The subtitle for my Second Piano Sonata, ‘notturno luminoso’, suggests many images: the reflection of the moon on a calm lake perhaps, or stars across a restful sky. But this piece is about a different kind of night and a different kind of light: the brightness of a brash city in the hours of darkness; the loneliness of pre-morning; sleeplessness and the dull glow of the alarm clock’s unmoving hours; the irrational fears or the disturbing dreams which are only darkened by the harsh glare of a suspended, dusty light bulb. But also suggested are night-time’s heightened emotions: its mysticism, its magic, its imaginative possibilities.

The Sonata’s form is ABA and there are three musical ideas: one based on sharps (brightness), one based on flats (darkness), and one based on naturals (white notes), representing a kind of blank irrationality. The piece opens clangorously, its bold, assertive theme—sharps piled upon sharps—separated by small cadenzas. Yearning and hesitating to reach a cadence it finally stumbles into the B section where all accidentals are suddenly bleached away in a whiteout. Extremes of pitch and dynamics splatter sound across the keyboard until an arpeggio figure in the bass gathers rhythmic momentum and leads to the ‘flat’ musical idea, jarring in its romantic juxtaposition to what has gone before.

This whole B section is made up of a collision, a tossing and turning, between the two tonalities of flats and naturals, interrupting each other with impatience until the whiteout material spins up into the stratosphere, a whirlwind in the upper octaves of the piano. Under this blizzard we hear the theme from the beginning of the piece, first in purest, brilliant C major in the treble, then, after it subsides to pianissimo, in a snarl of dissonance in the extreme bass of the instrument. The music stops … and then, for the first time, we hear the full statement of the ‘flat’ material, Andante lamentoso. The music’s sorrow increases with wave after wave of romantic ardour, deliberately risking overkill and discomfort.

At its climax the music halts twice at a precipice then tumbles into the recapitulation, the opening theme now in white-note tonality and unrecognizably spotted across the keyboard. As this peters out we hear the same theme but now with warm, gentle, romantic harmonies. A final build-up to an exact repetition of the opening of the piece is blended with material from the B section and, in the last bar, in a final wild scream, we hear all three tonalities together for a blinding second-long flash, brighter than noon, before the final soft chord closes the curtain on these night visions.

from notes by Stephen Hough © 2014

Show: MP3 FLAC ALAC
   English   Français   Deutsch