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Hyperion Records

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Cupid and Psyche by Annie Louisa Swynnerton (1844-1933)
Oldham Art Gallery, Lancashire / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67456
Recording details: May 2003
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: February 2004
Total duration: 9 minutes 9 seconds

'This is astonishing piano playing and Chopin interpretation, at its very best, fully measuresup to the greatness of these pieces. And to their freshness, not least; the Ballades and Scherzos, along with just about all Chopin's work, have been constsntly before the public, and Stephen Hough's accounts of them offer plenty of refinement to spirit and senses. It's not given to many to play them as well as he. Hough is unfailingly thoughtful; there's not a note that hasn't been cared for. …he combines a staggering technique with a genuinely engaging musical imagination. Handsomely recorded and produced.' (Gramophone)

'In the use of words like sensational, extraordinary, phenomenal, etc., critics have to be sparing, at risk of their credibility. But these adjectives are all appropriate to this new Chopin recital by Stephen Hough, which vaults him to the top rung in this repertoire, right next to Rubinstein' (American Record Guide)

'Hough has something unique and individual to say, with capricious daring and memorable directness. The beautifully balanced sound quality self-effacingly enhances what seemingly passes for a live experience uninhibited by microphones. Listen well and often for maximum reward and exhilaration.' (International Record Review)

'…to play Chopin with the rhythmic subtlety he requires without it seeming contrived is a rare gift. Stephen Hough has it in abundance' (The Sunday Times)

'Stephen Hough's quicksilver mastery of the idiom proves an unfailing guide throughout' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Hough has an awe-inspiring technique and the ability to play even the most rushed passages of Chopin with extraordinary clarity' (Fanfare, USA)

Ballade No 1 in G minor, Op 23
composer
1831/5

Other recordings available for download
Garrick Ohlsson (piano)
Nikolai Demidenko (piano)
Simon Barere (piano)
Eileen Joyce (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
According to Schumann at least two of the Ballades (Nos 2 and 3) were inspired by the nationalist poetry of Chopin’s compatriot Adam Mickiewicz. But Schumann’s assumption that the Ballades are programmatic is misleading. Chopin was patriotic but he was hardly a conscious propagandist, and whatever relation the Third Ballade, for example, has to Mickiewicz’s ‘Undine’ is general rather than exact. Chopin’s genius could be prompted but hardly contained by such a specific source.

The limitation of such literary parallels is immediately apparent at the start of the First Ballade. Remarkable when first written, the opening musical arch seems scarcely less original today. The rapid loss of confidence after such a resplendent introduction and the transformation of the subdued first and second subjects into outbursts of passionate declamation and song could never be reduced to a satisfying verbal equivalent, however subtle or distinguished. The cadences which conclude each phrase of the first subject are left unresolved and it takes a lengthy and agitated elaboration to resolve such unease in the assuaging second subject in E flat major. However, the music remains pensive and wistful, and only a further and triumphant shift into A major fully erases all doubts and questions. Blazing octaves lead to a capricious waltz-like variation, mischievously spiced and syncopated before a sudden descent returns us to both the principal subjects. These culminate in a coda introduced Il più forte possibile and marked Presto con fuoco. Ricocheting figuration leads to boiling scales and dramatic, recitative-like interjections before a plunge reinforced with grace notes and a mixture of contrary motion and unison octaves.

from notes by Bryce Morrison © 2004


Other albums featuring this work
'Simon Barere – His celebrated live recordings at Carnegie Hall, Vol. 3 – 11 November 1947' (APR5623)
Simon Barere – His celebrated live recordings at Carnegie Hall, Vol. 3 – 11 November 1947
MP3 £6.99FLAC £6.99ALAC £6.99 APR5623  Download only  
'Chopin: Ballades & Sonata No 3' (CDH55182)
Chopin: Ballades & Sonata No 3
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55182  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Chopin: The Complete Works' (CDS44351/66)
Chopin: The Complete Works
MP3 £45.00FLAC £45.00ALAC £45.00Buy by post £50.00 CDS44351/66  16CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
'Eileen Joyce – The complete Parlophone & Columbia solo recordings' (APR7502)
Eileen Joyce – The complete Parlophone & Columbia solo recordings
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