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Track(s) taken from CDA67598

Fantasia in C minor, K475

May 1785; dedicated to Therese von Trattner

Stephen Hough (piano)
Recording details: November 2006
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: March 2008
Total duration: 11 minutes 32 seconds

Cover artwork: Garden of Eden (oil on linen) by Anthony Mastromatteo (b?)
Reproduced by kind permission of the artist / Private Collection


'There are all too few pianists with the equivalent of Hough's three Michelin stars … opening with two of Mozart's solo masterpieces, the ear is welcomed into an intimate, pellucid sound world with a sophistcated grading of dynamics … [Liszt-Busoni Fantasy on Non piu andrai] provides a hair-raising bravura display that deserves to be heard more often. At least, when played like this' (Gramophone)

'A bold and dramatic account of Mozart's K475 C minor Fantasia opens this memorable and imaginatively devised recital. While emphasising the prophetically romantic nature of the music, Stephen Hough takes great care not to overplay its more forceful passages … the final party piece, the Liszt/Busoni Fantasia on themes from The Marriage of Figaro, is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser given an exhilharating performance guaranteed to bring the house down' (BBC Music Magazine)

'A scintillating exploration of Mozartian style in tribute works by other composers. Easily the most attractive is by Stephen Hough himself, who takes three small pieces and reinvents them in the style of Poulenc. The result is a seductive, spicy and totally original addition to the genre, and a nice counterweight to the Liszt-Busoni Figaro fantasia, which the prodigiously talented Hough plays with his trademark intensity' (The Observer)

'We look forward to Hough's recordings. They are never disappointing, and this one is a classic. With excellent engineering and Harriet Smith's very informative notes, only those who do not value great pianism can afford to miss it' (American Record Guide)

'Hyperion's imaginative new collection shows this protean artist to be equally at home in the Classical repertoire. Not surprisingly, he offers romantic and highly pianistic Mozart … the result is a trio of performances of splendid variety … the recital ends rousingly with Liszt's Figaro Fantasia. Compared to the other post-Mozartian rarities, of course, this is standard fare—but it sounds freshly minted in this improvisatory reading … notable for his revelatory inner-line clarity even in the most congested textures and for his ability to reveal the underlying gestures in passages, that, even in Gilels' hands, emerge as a mere blur of notes. Excellent Hyperion sound and useful notes by Harriet Smith only add to the virtues of this first-rate release' (International Record Review)

'In a typically well-made progamme, the compelling British pianist springboards of Mozart into a series of tributes. The virtuoisic challenges are handled with liquid clarity and intelligent expression. Mesmerising in the Mozart, the transition to a more modern take comes surprisingly fluently' (The Times)

'Here's another winning, imaginatively conceived disc from Britain's finest pianist … it is unexpected and delightful programme-building. Prized for his pianism, Hough is also a superb Mozartian. He lends these Fantasias an almost Beethovenian weight and depth of expression … Hough's playing is dazzling throughout' (The Sunday Times)

'A new record from Stephen Hough is always something to look foward to, and A Mozart Album is no exception … altogether an outsanding disc released by Hyperion' (Liverpool Daily Post)

'Hough's Mozart playing is so fresh, so sensitive to the harmonic twists and the way the prase can simultaneously suggest different feelings … this 2006 Keener and Eadon production from St George's, Bristol, is impeccably presented, with a congenial note by Harriet Smith' (International Piano)

'In this deft tribute to Mozart's genius, splendid pianist Stephen Hough leads with a pair of the composer's own works before segueing into transcriptions, homages and his own Poulenc-inflected 'transformations'. Hough is incapable of an unengaging performance, as he demonstrates right off with an account of the Fantasia in C minor, K475 that pulls back from stormy drama for something more tactfully measured and delicate. An unfinished Liszt fantasia on 'The Marriage of Figaro' music, amended by Busoni, gets a wittily theatrical treatment' (San Francisco Chronicle)

'Stephen Hough generally does not disappoint in terms of programming … [his]Mozart is exemplary, with the Fantasias approached with a free sense of tempo and a careful attention to the dynamic contrasts and articulations in the score … the pendant piece is the Liszt-Busoni fantasia on themes from Marriage of Figaro, in which Hough displays his considerable technical wizardry and whimsical attention to details' (IonArts.com)

'[Hough] is certainly one of today's most thoughtful and thought-provoking pianists, as his latest thematic Hyperion set underscores … playing with a mix of depth and detail that only the best pianists achieve … he connects kindred spirits in a witty, lovely way' (The Star-Ledger, USA)
What an extraordinarily original and daring way to begin a piece, with a ringing spare, bare octave, followed by a motif that creeps rather than sings, jostled by one diminished chord after another. Mozart’s audience must have been struck dumb. The work dates from May 1785 and is frequently performed in tandem with the C minor Sonata, K457, in part because they were published together and both dedicated to Therese von Trattner. But both are so potent in their own right, so drenched in despair—for Mozart C minor was a key of inkiest blackness—that such an approach can only lessen their individual impact. The Mozart scholar Alfred Einstein greatly admired the Fantasia, commenting on Mozart’s ‘ability to indulge in the greatest freedom and boldness of imagination, the most extreme contrast of ideas, the most uninhibited variety of lyric and virtuoso elements while yet preserving structural logic’. That freedom is exhibited in many ways—chromaticism abounds, and again and again Mozart ratchets up the tension by increasing dissonance rather than resolving it. Effects such as tremolos prefigure Liszt, and intensify the feeling that we’ve swapped the salon for the high drama of the opera house, with passages that emulate recitative, arioso and aria.

The entire work is pervaded by a sense of restlessness full of constantly shifting moods, daring modulations and the exploitation of the complete range of the contemporary piano, with the hands often in widely contrasting registers, a particularly strong colouristic effect on a period instrument. And yet, as Einstein points out, it is structurally coherent, falling into several clear sections, with the second Adagio recalling the first.

While this sense of clearly mapped-out sections—equally evident in the other C minor work here—may owe something to the fantasias of CPE Bach, that is where the similarity ends. In scope and depth of mood Mozart looks far into the future, to Liszt, perhaps even on to Busoni. It is hardly surprising that there were at least three orchestral versions made of K475 early in the nineteenth century, so potent are its colouristic effects.

from notes by Harriet Smith © 2008

Quelle extraordinaire originalité, quelle audace dans cette ouverture sur une octave retentissante, maigre et nue, juste avant un motif qui avance à pas de loup plus qu’il ne chante, bousculé par un accord diminué après l’autre. L’auditoire de Mozart a dû en rester muet. Cette Fantaisie de mai 1785 est souvent jouée en tandem avec la Sonate en ut mineur, K457, publiée en même temps qu’elle et dédiée, comme elle, à Therese von Trattner. Mais ces deux œuvres sont si puissantes, si trempées dans le désespoir (l’ut mineur mozartien était une tonalité de l’encre la plus noire qui fût) qu’une telle approche ne peut qu’amoindrir l’impact de chacune. Le grand spécialiste de Mozart Alfred Einstein admirait beaucoup cette Fantaisie, évoquant l’aptitude du compositeur à «se lancer dans la plus grande liberté, la plus grande hardiesse d’imagination, le plus extrême contraste d’idées, la variété la plus débridée d’éléments lyriques et virtuoses tout en préservant la logique structurelle». Cette liberté s’affiche à l’envi: les chromatismes abondent et, à maintes reprises, Mozart accroît irrésistiblement la tension en augmentant la dissonance au lieu de la résoudre. Des effets comme les trémolos préfigurent Liszt et renforcent notre sensation d’avoir troqué le salon contre le grand drame de l’opéra, avec des passages imités du récitatif, de l’arioso et de l’aria.

L’œuvre déborde d’un sentiment d’agitation permanente, aux climats sans cesse changeants et aux modulations osées exploitant toute l’étendue du piano dont Mozart disposait alors, avec les mains souvent dans des registres contrastés au possible—un effet coloriste particulièrement intense sur un instrument d’époque. Et pourtant, comme le souligne Einstein, l’ensemble demeure structurellement cohérent, découpé en sections nettes, le second Adagio rappelant le premier.

Ce sentiment de sections clairement dessinées—tout aussi patent dans l’autre pièce en ut mineur du présent album—doit peut-être un peu aux fantaisies de C.P.E. Bach. Mais là s’arrête la comparaison car, dans l’envergure comme dans la profondeur de l’atmosphère, Mozart regarde bien plus loin, vers Liszt, voire vers Busoni. Guère surprenant qu’une page aux effets coloristes si puissants ait connu aux moins trois versions orchestrales au début du XIXe siècle.

extrait des notes rédigées par Harriet Smith © 2008
Français: Hypérion

Wie außerordentlich originell und wagemutig, ein Stück mit einer schallenden leeren Oktave zu beginnen, gefolgt von einem Motiv, das eher kriecht als singt und von einem verminderten Akkord nach dem anderen weitergeschubst wird, was Mozarts Publikum wohl total verblüfft hätte. Das Werk datiert vom Mai 1785 und wird oft gemeinsam mit der c-Moll-Sonate K457 aufgeführt, teils weil sie zusammen veröffentlicht wurden und beide Therese von Trattner gewidmet sind. Aber beide sind für sich allein so wirksam, so voller Verzweiflung—c-Moll war Mozarts tiefschwärzeste Tonart—dass ihre Kombination den jeweiligen individuellen Eindruck nur abschwächen kann. Der Mozartforscher Alfred Einstein bewunderte die Fantasie sehr und äußerte sich über Mozarts Fähigkeit, die größte Freiheit und Kühnheit der Vorstellungskraft sowie die ungehemmteste Lyrik und Virtuosität zu genießen, während er dennoch strukturelle Logik beibehält. Diese Freiheit zeigt sich auf viele verschiedene Weisen—sie steckt voll üppiger Chromatik und Mozart zieht die Spannung immer weiter an, indem er Dissonanzen eher anreichert als sie aufzulösen. Effekte wie Tremolos weisen auf Liszt voraus und intensivieren das Gefühl, dass wir den Salon verlassen haben und mit Passagen, die Rezitativ, Arioso und Arie nachahmen, in das hohe Drama des Opernhauses eintreten.

Das gesamte Werk ist von einem Gefühl von Rastlosigkeit und ständig wechselnden Stimmungen durchzogen, sowie kühnen Modulationen und der Nutzung des gesamten Umfangs des zeitgenössischen Klaviers, mit den Händen oft in weit auseinander liegenden Registern—auf einem Instrument der Zeit ein besonders farbiger Effekt. Und dennoch bleibt es, wie Einstein hervorhebt, strukturell kohärent, fällt in mehrere eindeutige Abschnitte, und das zweite Adagio erinnert an das erste.

Während dieses Gefühl eindeutig abgegrenzter Abschnitte—die in dem anderen hier aufgenommenen Werk in c-Moll genauso deutlich sind—den Fantasien von C. Ph. E. Bach etwas verdanken könnte, hört damit aber die Ähnlichkeit schon auf. In seiner Reichweite und Stimmungstiefe blickt Mozart weit in die Zukunft, auf Liszt womöglich sogar Busoni, voraus. Es überrascht also kaum, dass Anfang des 19. Jahrhunderts von K475 mit seinen ausgeprägten, wirkungsvollen Klangfarben mindestens drei Orchesterfassungen angelegt wurden.

aus dem Begleittext von Harriet Smith © 2008
Deutsch: Renate Wendel

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