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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67027
Recording details: October 1997
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Mike Hatch
Release date: March 1999
Total duration: 21 minutes 23 seconds

'His moving performance of the B flat Sonata, marked throughout by refined, discerning pianism and an uncommonly subtle ear for texture … Hough seeks out the music’s inwardness and fragility, its ethereal, self … communing remoteness … [D784] magnificently done … the lyrical music is limpidly coloured and poignantly inflected… Hough’s individual and searching reading of the two great sonatas … take their place alongside the most recommendable in the catalogue' (Gramophone)

'(A Minor D.784) especially sensitive in its uncertain switching between laughter and tears, a typically Schubertian trait reflected in Hough’s outstandingly delicate touch and his natural phrasing … These are profoundly musical and deeply thought-out performances' (The Sunday Telegraph)

'[D784] the pulsing triples … haunt the memory, as does the floating treatment of the lyrical subject in the finale' (BBC Music Magazine)

'It is obvious that Hough identifies deeply with this music … he is temperamentally attuned to its urgent lyricism and, sometimes, heartrendering pathos … lush tone, subtle pedalling, and a firm grasp of structure’ (American Record Guide)

'Any pianist who records Schubert must be sure of his ground. Stephen Hough here proves himself a worthy rival' (The Sunday Times)

'always thoughtful, in places transcendent' (Classic CD)

'This is, quite simply, some of the most beautiful Schubert I have heard in years, or (why not come out and say it?) ever. Irresistible. That is, indeed, the word for everything about this superb release … a musician capable of the greatest things … a performance that ranks with the most celebrated classic and modern versions in or out of the catalogs' (Fanfare, USA)

'[Hough] combines the imagination and pianistic colour of the past with the scholarship of the present, illuminating the very essence of the music he plays … a performance of extraordinary depth and beauty' (Pretoria News)

'Hough keeps listeners’ attention through the musical equivalent of whispering … a tribute to his elegant legato touch and phrasing as natural and unforced as breathing … Hough’s supernal playing and matchless poise make this album an unmitigated success' (CD Now)

'Stephen Hough has made his name in the post-Romantic repertoire, exploring rarely-known works of interest …. Here in a more familiar repertoire he works wonders through an approach which is particularly sensitive and intelligent. His accompanying notes are particularly valuable…. ' (Répertoire, France)

'Poetic, imaginative, deeply felt and keenly thought … a deeply loving treatment of the piano in performances of exceptional refinement' (Piano, Germany)

Piano Sonata in A minor, D784

Allegro giusto  [13'14]
Andante  [3'26]
Allegro vivace  [4'43]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Sonata in A minor, D784 (1823), and the Sonata in B flat major, D960 (1828), are the first and last of Schubert’s mature works in this form, and the former was almost certainly written at the time that Schubert first learned of the seriousness of his illness. The chilling desolation of its first movement’s first subject seems to be a direct response to that tragic news, the ‘strong-weak’ appoggiatura in bar 2 sighing wearily or angrily throughout the entire movement in both melody and accompaniment. However, as in so much of Schubert’s work, it is the moments of major tonality which seem the saddest. Perhaps only Mozart equals Schubert in this ability to transform the sunshine of a major key into a mood of heartbreak and pain.

The second movement is strangely unsettling for three reasons: because of the almost enforced normality of its theme after the bittersweet bleakness of the first movement; because this theme is doubled in the tenor voice, a claustrophobic companion seeming to drag it down; and because of the constant, murmuring interjections (ppp) between the theme’s statements. The helter-skelter finale introduces a note of panic, as triplets trip over themselves in their scurrying counterpoint. Here, as in the first movement, the glorious second subject, in the major, seems unsure whether to laugh or cry, calling to mind Rückert’s poem Lachen und Weinen which Schubert set the same year.

Beauty captivates the flesh in order to obtain permission to pass right to the soul. Beauty is a fruit which we look at without trying to seize it. (Simone Weil)

from notes by Stephen Hough © 1998

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