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Hyperion Records

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Felsentor (1818) by Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841)
National Gallery, Berlin / AKG-Images, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67390
Recording details: January 2003
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: October 2003
Total duration: 26 minutes 23 seconds

'I doubt whether anyone today could play these sonatas better than Stephen Hough, who spins an exquisitely limpid cantabile, has an instinctive understanding of the rubato crucial to this style, and keeps the textures marvellously lucid … If you want to explore these brilliant, intriguingly diverse sonatas, this fabulous disc is the one to go for' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Stephen Hough turns his attention to the three most compelling of Hummel’s five mature solo piano sonatas. The F sharp minor, Op 81, and D major, Op 106, from 1819 and 1824, are large-scale works, revelling in an early-Romantic virtuosity that was to attract both Chopin and Liszt. The four-movement Op 106 is a huge creation of dramatic rhetorical gestures, while the much earlier F minor sonata, Op 20 (1807), gives a taste of the youthful Hummel’s exuberantly Haydnesque style. Hough proves a dazzling advocate for all three works.' (The Sunday Times)

'I have no hesitation in according this CD the highest marks' (Fanfare, USA)

'…no composer could ask for a better champion. His playing is fierce, sharply etched and eloquent throughout, with an emphasis on the formal balances that set this music teetering on the edge betwen Mozartean symmetry and the fiery impulsiveness of the Romantics' (San Francisco Chronicle)

'No matter how difficult the music, Stephen Hough's effortless technique and eloquent, characterful musicality make everything sound easy' (ClassicsToday.com)

Piano Sonata in D major, Op 106
composer
1824

Allegro vivace  [6'11]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Sonata in D major, Op 106 (1824), like the F sharp minor Sonata, was composed in Weimar where Hummel had become Kapellmeister to the Grand Duke of Saxony in 1819, a post he held till his death. (In Weimar, Hummel was close friends with Goethe and often performed at the poet’s house. Together they were considered one of Weimar’s most popular tourist attractions – ‘without seeing Goethe and hearing Hummel play’, wrote one visitor, ‘no visit [to Weimar] was complete’.)

Hummel’s longest piano sonata (836 measures against the 601 of Op 81), and the only one to have four movements, is a retreat from Romantic fantasy and innovation. It is a conscious return to his neo-Classic style, albeit in a far more mature guise, with tighter motivic writing and a conservative harmonic language. The temperature throughout is cooler, its most memorable material found in its idiosyncratic figurations rather than its themes. After the episodic and comparatively mundane first movement (Allegro moderato, ma risoluto), the work’s happiest feature is its second movement. It is entitled Un scherzo all’antico: Allegro, ma non troppo, the first section emphasising the work’s allegiance to an earlier era, its second (marked, curiously, Alternativ) an intriguing passage with its pre-echoes of Schumann and late Beethoven. The third movement (Larghetto a capriccio, to be played cantabile ed espressivo) is in A major and sets out as a Field-like nocturne before Hummel the melodist gives way to Hummel the improviser: its last pages have the left hand’s simple triplets set against the right hand’s blocks of delicate demisemiquavers. The finale (Allegro vivace) is arguably the most tightly knit, closely worked of the four movements, its individual sections (with an emphasis on contrapuntal writing) again proving more ear-catching than its thematic content.

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2003

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