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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67027
Recording details: October 1998
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Mike Clements
Release date: March 1999
Total duration: 43 minutes 19 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 B flat major, D960
composer
1828

Molto moderato  [19'57]
Andante sostenuto  [10'32]

Other recordings available for download
Stephen Bishop-Kovacevich (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The opening movement of the Sonata in B flat major goes beyond analysis. It is one of those occasions when the pen has to be set down on the desk, the body rested against the back of a chair, and a listener’s whole being surrendered to another sphere. Here there is neither the superficial gloss of refinement nor the mawkish self-consciousness of profundity; rather Schubert’s miraculous ability to bare his soul without a trace of narcissism—a combined result of his humility, universality, and an exquisite unawareness of either.

Art is waiting; inspiration is waiting. Humility is a certain relation of the soul to time. It is an acceptance of waiting. (Simone Weil)

This movement’s nine first-time bars (117–125) have been the subject of a certain controversy for two reasons: first because of their strange, dislocated character; and secondly because they force the pianist to repeat the movement’s exposition. Hence they have often been omitted. I feel that they are important, not only because the same genius who wrote the rest of the work also wrote these bars, but also because their radical nature should alert us to a hidden message beyond the obvious. This weird, stuttering, hesitating passage has an important psychological significance in the structure of the movement: it emphasizes the fact that even in the most lyrical moments there lies disquiet; it contains the only example of the shuddering bass trill played ff—a terrifying glance of ‘recognition’; it is a premonition of drama to come in the development section; and it enables both the return of the opening bars and the C sharp minor second-time bar to have a greater, magical effect. The other objection—that repeats for Schubert were a convention he was unable to shake off, and that to hear the exposition once is enough—doesn’t convince me. These nine bars are as far from convention as is possible, and a repeat is never a duplicate. It is ultimately a matter of patience, with the music, with oneself—of allowing something time to unfold and to grow.

Affliction is by its nature inarticulate. The afflicted silently beseech to be given the words to express themselves. (Simone Weil)

With the second movement a new dimension of isolation and alienation seems to be introduced which is underlined by a contrast and separation of texture. The right hand’s sorrowing song of lament seems in another world from the left hand’s detached, almost oblivious accompaniment—a shadow of dance making the poignant melody even more heart-rending. The contrast here is not opposition, but incomprehension. Again the paradox of Schubert’s tonality: the central section, in sunny A major, should be consoling, but there is no music more anxious or troubled, a desperate attempt to remain cheerful amidst overwhelming sorrow.

The third movement’s marking con delicatezza seems to refer more to a fragility of emotion than just a delicacy of touch; and the finale’s extraordinary subtlety of major/minor nuance, with its alternating use of playful and tender articulation, displays Schubert’s ability to prise open the most resolutely locked human feelings, and to touch the most hidden nerves.

from notes by Stephen Hough © 1998


Other albums featuring this work
'Schubert: Piano Sonata D960' (CDA66004)
Schubert: Piano Sonata D960

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