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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA66918
Recording details: July 1996
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: February 1997
Total duration: 19 minutes 43 seconds

'Wonderfully played … marvellous sound. This is a first-rate issue in every respect … only the most exalted comparisons will do for Stephen Hough's latest disc, and even they are struggling to compete. Hough has a dream-ticket combination of virtues—astonishing agility, a faultless ear for texture, fine-tuned stylistic sensibility and an exceptional understanding of harmonic and structural tensions. [His] recent Hyperion issues have given him a lot to live up to. This recital triumphantly does that' (Gramophone)

'It is hard to imagine better performances' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Must take pride of place among recordings of this repertoire. A most distinguished record in every way' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

‘Hough at his magical best’ (Classic FM Magazine)

'Superb performances … Style, elegance, and a power that is awe-inspiring when unleashed. César Franck has never been better served' (Classic CD)

'A superb production!' (Fanfare, USA)

'Playing of exquisite poise, intrepid technical brilliance and extraordinary insight. A peach of an issue' (Hi-Fi News)

'Un des pianistes les plus virtuoses au monde à ce jour, non seulement dans la vitesse et le prestesse, mais surtout dans l'imagination et la qualité sonore. Avec une telle maîtrise du clavier et des timbres, une telle lisibilité polyphonique, une telle intelligence du texte, Hough va à mon sens plus loin que bien d'autres pianistes, même les plus valeureux dans la compréhension profonde de cette musique' (Répertoire, France)

Prélude, Aria et Final, M23
composer
1886/7

Aria: Lento  [5'21]

Other recordings available for download
Alfred Cortot (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Prélude, Aria et Final was written two years later than the Prélude, Choral et Fugue in 1886/7 and it is interesting to compare the two works. Apart from their titles, which have an obvious kinship, significant similarities include the use of cyclic form; the central sections being inspired by the human voice; a shared vision of final redemption, with the triumph of good over evil; and, most curiously of all, the fact that both pieces use the same motivic material for the same emotional effect.

Both of the original Bach themes mentioned above refer to the sufferings of Christ, and the ‘motto’ motif of redemption happens to be shaped like a cross. The final (unintentional?) pun is that this same ‘motto’ theme, present and transformed in both works, appears in the ‘Transformation Scene’ from Parsifal when bread and wine are changed into Christ’s Body and Blood—the redeeming re-enactment of the Last Supper. This interpretation might not seem too far-fetched if we recall that Franck habitually left his organ bench during the Mass to kneel at this same moment of transformation.

In spite of the internal similarities, the two pieces have significant differences. Where the Prelude, Chorale and Fugue has a distinctly religious flavour, the Prelude, Aria and Finale seems more secular (the Chorale a divine song, the Aria a human one); and where the former work is universal in its message, the latter seems almost domestic, though no less spiritually serious. The Prelude, Chorale and Fugue has a tremendous unity, a feeling of magnetic inevitability which almost pulls it forward to its triumphant close; the Prelude, Aria and Finale is more like a sonata in three separate movements, although the thematic material is profusely and masterfully interconnected throughout the work. The ending, in contrast to that of the Prelude, Chorale and Fugue, is profoundly tranquil and peaceful, the ‘motto’ theme not so much representing a victory over evil as a healing of pain.

from notes by Stephen Hough © 1997


Other albums featuring this work
'Alfred Cortot – The Late Recordings, Vol. 2 – Franck, 'encores' & Debussy' (APR5572)
Alfred Cortot – The Late Recordings, Vol. 2 – Franck, 'encores' & Debussy
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