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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA66969
Recording details: January 1997
Dudley Town Hall, Warwickshire, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: August 1997
Total duration: 19 minutes 30 seconds

'It should perhaps come as no surprise that Stephen Hough should prove so perfectly attuned to these works … if you opt for just a single recording, this would make an excellent first choice … the soft, stylish arpeggios that open the first work on the disc announce immediately that something special is on the way. Hough is now clearly first recommendation in the concertos' (Gramophone)

'[Hough] can scamper with the best and is able to incorporate delightful capriciousness without derailing the flow of thought … These performances…boast of nearly ideal lightness, vivacity and impetus' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Stephen Hough has the ideal qualities of sharp attention to rhythmic detail and an impeccable fluidity of line and phrase' (The Observer)

'You can tell this is special from the first chord … I don't think [Stephen Hough] has an equal on record in this music, even with competitors like Andras Schiff and Murray Perahia. Issues like this add to the feeling that the great Mendelssohn reappraisal is underway at last. It's long overdue' (The Independent)

'Biting intensity, yet with freer expressiveness and bigger contrasts he also brings out extra poetry and … a sparkling wit … A constant delight' (The Guardian)

'Once again we have Stephen Hough lavishing his exciting gifts upon a splendid Mendelssohn programme. I cannot envisage this splendidly recorded disc being absent from the year's honours list' (Classic CD)

'Expressive playing from this fine soloist – one has to marvel at anyone who can take on those devilish tempos' (The Scotsman)

'Hough offers far greater elegance and plusher tone … Hough is, as always, a delight to listen to, such as in his quicksilver scattering of thirds in the last movement of the Second Concerto' (Fanfare, USA)

'Glitteringly performed' (Daily Mail)

'Hough’s pianism …is elegant, spirited and poetic, and well-attuned, too, to the swirling skittishness of the concertos' finales … Hough’s reading, as throughout this disc, is a joy' (Birmingham Post)

'He is all fleet-fingered exhilaration in the outer movements and relaxes appealingly when the music turns inwards' (International Piano)

'Stephen Hough searches out the lyrical essence of the music rather than going for glitz’ (Stereo Review)

'Stephen Hough is a player of formidable talent, capturing the essence and spirit of Mendelssohn’s driving enthusiasm and creative wonder' (Yorkshire Post)

'Stephen Hough is, undoubtedly, one of the most elegant pianists before the public today … Hough does not fail to underscore this in the brilliant pyrotechnics' (Soundscapes, Australia)

'An impressive achievement all round' (Piano, Germany)

Piano Concerto No 1 in G minor, Op 25
composer

Andante  [5'37]

Other recordings available for download
Moura Lympany (piano), Philharmonia Orchestra, Rafael Kubelík (conductor)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
That Mendelssohn thought long about concerto form is shown by his revisions of the concertante works, including the Violin Concerto. The G minor Piano Concerto opens with the briefest of orchestral introductions to an energetic movement designated Molto Allegro con fuoco. The piano enters with a virile subject characterized by a descending octave leap and ascending octave scale. From this the orchestra borrows a dotted rhythm and fashions material of its own in response. A transition to the relative major key is dominated by the piano. The second subject is surprisingly wide-ranging in key, moving via B flat minor to D flat major, where it remains until B flat major is regained via a brief reprise of the first theme. A full restatement of the secondary melody is heard from the orchestra, accompanied by flowing semiquavers from the piano. This material lends a more opulently Romantic cast to what might otherwise seem a movement of Classical concision and economy. The short development makes use of both subjects. The recapitulation saves its surprises for the expected peroration, but this never arrives and is replaced by a dramatic brass entry on a chord of B major. This diverts the music, via a brief but introspective cadenza, directly into the slow movement, a soulful Andante in triple time. The characteristic principal theme is stated by the strings and restated in gently decorated form by the piano. This is demonstrable ‘Song without Words’ territory. The movement expands naturally into a simple ternary structure embracing only brief and incidental migrations from the tonic and dominant key areas. The movement comes to a complete standstill on a sustained chord of E major, although the score indicates that the final Presto follows almost at once.

The finale produces another of those tunes apt to delight listeners while deterring those proud of an elevated taste from admitting their enthusiasm. The resurgent repeated chord device for accompaniment enhances the sense of a light rather than an elegant purpose, almost suggesting the style of the drawing room galop so beloved of the later Victorians. This is the kind of music which mocks any attempt at straight-faced analytical comment. Suffice it to say that there follows a secondary theme in the tonic key (now G major). There is much of a textural nature similar to the first movement, as well as a passage of more Mozartian (though breathlessly high-spirited) dialogue. The work’s concision proclaims an aversion to self-regarding display, and its conclusion admits of the conventional orchestral last word. Liszt, incidentally, had just met Mendelssohn in Paris when, at the Erard piano showrooms, he was shown the new and barely legible score of this concerto. ‘A miracle, a miracle!’ exclaimed Mendelssohn to Hiller afterwards, having just witnessed Liszt sit down and play the work easily at sight (Alan Walker: Franz Liszt: The Virtuoso Years, 1811–1847; Faber and Faber, London, 1983). Whatever Mendelssohn’s subsequent opinion of how Liszt used his gifts, there can be no doubt that he was bowled over by their awesome extent.

from notes by Francis Pott © 1997


Other albums featuring this work
'Moura Lympany – The HMV Recordings, 1947-1952' (APR6011)
Moura Lympany – The HMV Recordings, 1947-1952
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