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Track(s) taken from CDA67996

Piano Sonata in C sharp minor 'Moonlight', Op 27 No 2

1801; published in March 1802; No 14; Beethoven's subtitle is 'quasi una Fantasia'; the nickname 'Moonlight' comes from Ludwig Rellstab's description of the opening movement; dedicated to Countess Giulietta Guicciardi

Stephen Hough (piano)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
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Recording details: May 2013
Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: May 2014
Total duration: 14 minutes 6 seconds

Cover artwork: Keramisch-Mystisch (In der Art eines Stillebens) (1925) by Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Art Library, London

Other recordings available for download

Alessio Bax (piano)
Artur Pizarro (piano)
Steven Osborne (piano)
Angela Hewitt (piano)


'A new disc from Stephen Hough is always welcome. How will he surprise us this time and where will he take us? … there’s the dark and turbulent eponymous tone-poem and the far-from-restful presto finale of the 'Moonlight', given additional agitation by Hough’s spiky left-hand off-beats. The two adroitly chosen Nocturnes show that Chopin’s nocturnal reveries could be as dark and threatening in their own way as Hough’s, if his Sonata notturno luminoso is anything to go by. Angular, dissonant, fiery and often bleak, this work (18’23" in length) suggests, among its many images, ‘the irrational fears or the disturbing dreams which are only darkened by the harsh glare of a suspended, dusty light bulb’ (the composer’s useful route map in a note appended to Harriet Smith’s thoughtful booklet)' (Gramophone)

'Hough’s own Sonata … is rich in textural variety and harmonic colour, full of massive chunks of sound like sculpted blocks of marble lit from within, and quirky, obsessive toccatas that whirl by like a runaway roundabout that keeps changing direction. It is unsettling, playful and original … hearing a masterful pianist performing his own work is a special experience in itself … countless details prove rewarding: the smoky pedal in the C sharp minor Nocturne’s transition, the free-flying melodic lines of ‘In der Nacht’, the veiled duskiness of the Moonlight Sonata's opening movement' (BBC Music Magazine)» More

'Hough's Sonata unfolds … with an immediately apparent structural logic and a harmonic vocabulary that conveys vivid emotional narrative. As one would expect from a pianist of Hough’s gifts, textures are imaginative, with plenty of excitement and variety. Interesting from the first hearing, it grows more so with repeated listening. Hough’s musical thinking has the same warmth and communicativeness as his performing persona, so that one looks forward to hearing more … the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata heard here is very good and deeply musical … the two Chopin Nocturnes, Op 27, on the other hand, are ethereal and abundantly poetic.

Though he’s recorded some, I’ve not heard Hough play Schumann before. What a pleasure it is! His Carnaval has great warmth and gentleness, along with appropriate doses of high spirits and antic, even slapstick humour. Extremely original in concept, this interpretation is seasoned throughout with a unique tempo rubato that is both apt and uncannily subtle. I don’t think I’ve sat through another Carnaval that was quite this much fun. You should have a listen' (International Record Review)» More

'Hyperion’s superb recording and Stephen Hough’s burnished sound make this a most appealing disc on the subject of music of the night … Hough gives a ‘Moonlight’ Sonata in a different league … finding cheeky accents in the central Allegretto and presenting an explosive finale. The two Chopin Nocturnes, both beautifully shaded and harmonically aware, precede Hough’s own Second Piano Sonata … Hough is his own finest interpreter, playing with a fierce belief in the score. Finally, Schumann’s Carnaval … the opening gestures are gloriously exuberant, introducing one of the finest readings available' (International Piano)» More

'Stephen Hough’s penchant for intelligent thematic programming once again manifests itself throughout In the Night. Ironically, the music’s dark subtexts often benefit from the pianist’s interpretive illumination' (Classics Today)

'Wie auch immer, [Stephen Houghs] Interpretation dieses Werks halte ich für eine der hinreißendsten, die ich je gehört habe' (Pizzicato, Luxembourg)» More

'This nocturnal program shows various sights of the night, and Hough’s inspiration here is absolutely great, be it in a delicately played Beethoven Sonata, in his own Piano Sonata No 2 ‘Notturno luminoso’—a portrait of a sleepless city—or a magically imaginative and really brilliant ‘Carnaval’' (Pizzicato, Luxembourg)

If the title of the Op 13 Sonata at least has some semblance of authenticity, the same cannot be said of the nickname that has become attached to the second of the pair of sonatas Op 27. It was the poet and music critic Ludwig Rellstab who described its famous opening movement as evoking ‘a boat, visiting, by moonlight, the primitive landscapes of Lake Lucerne’. Curiously enough, to Beethoven’s pupil Carl Czerny, writing before Rellstab had penned his phrase, the sonata’s opening movement also suggested a nocturnal landscape. The piece, said Czerny, was ‘a night scene, in which the plaintive voice of a spirit is heard far in the distance’.

The Op 27 sonatas were issued in 1801, both of them with the sub-heading of ‘quasi una Fantasia’—a qualification indicating the freedom with which Beethoven was treating the traditional sonata design. The ‘Moonlight’ Sonata’s famous opening movement bears the direction: Si deve suonare tutto questo pezzo delicatissimamente e senza sordino (‘This entire piece must be played with the utmost delicacy, and without dampers’). ‘Senza sordino’ was Beethoven’s habitual marking at this stage of his career for the use of the sustaining pedal, and although on a modern piano his instruction needs to be treated with some caution, a certain degree of harmonic blurring is implied in order to convey the music’s unbroken atmosphere of plaintive mystery. Beethoven was to exploit similar overlapping pedal effects in the rondo theme of the ‘Waldstein’ Sonata.

As he was to do the following year in his ‘Tempest’ Sonata Op 31 No 2, Beethoven maintains the darkness of the minor mode throughout the two outer movements, while writing the middle movement entirely in the major. (‘A flower between two abysses’ was Liszt’s evocative description of the minuet-like second movement of Op 27 No 2.) The finale is an unrelentingly agitated piece whose coda, with its ‘strummed’ diminished-seventh chords sweeping up the keyboard, reaches new heights of turbulence. Not until the ‘Appassionata’ Op 57 did Beethoven write another finale for piano of comparable dramatic intensity.

from notes by Misha Donat © 2010

Si le titre de la Sonate, op. 13, présente au moins un semblant d’authenticité, on ne peut en dire autant du surnom qui s’est attaché à la seconde sonate de l’op. 27. C’est le poète et critique musical Ludwig Rellstab qui a trouvé que son célèbre premier mouvement évoquait «une barque, au clair de lune, dans les paysages primitifs du lac des Quatre-Cantons». Assez curieusement, un élève de Beethoven, Carl Czerny, pensait, avant que Rellstab ait écrit sa phrase, que le mouvement initial de la sonate évoquait aussi un paysage nocturne. Ce morceau, selon Czerny, était une «scène nocturne, dans laquelle la voix d’un esprit plaintif se fait entendre dans le lointain».

Les sonates, op. 27, ont été publiées en 1801, toutes deux avec le sous-titre «quasi una Fantasia»—qui souligne la liberté avec laquelle Beethoven traite le modèle traditionnel de la sonate. Le célèbre premier mouvement de la Sonate «Clair de lune» est précédé de la mention: Si deve suonare tutto questo pezzo delicatissimamente e senza sordino («Toute cette pièce doit être jouée avec la plus grande délicatesse et sans sourdine»). «Senza sordino» était l’indication habituelle de Beethoven à ce stade de sa carrière pour l’utilisation de la pédale forte et si, sur un piano moderne, cette indication doit être traitée avec quelque précaution, il faut parvenir à un certain degré de flou harmonique afin de traduire l’atmosphère ininterrompue de mystère plaintif de la musique. Beethoven allait exploiter des effets analogues de pédales qui se chevauchent dans le thème du rondo de la Sonate «Waldstein».

Comme il allait le faire l’année suivante dans sa Sonate «La Tempête», op. 31 no 2, Beethoven conserve l’obscurité du mode mineur d’un bout à l’autre des deux mouvements externes, alors qu’il écrit le mouvement central entièrement en majeur. («Une fleur entre deux abysses», c’est ainsi que Liszt a décrit de manière évocatrice le second mouvement en forme de menuet de l’op. 27 no 2.) Le finale présente une agitation acharnée; sa coda, avec ses accords effleurés de septième diminuée qui balaient le clavier, atteint de nouveaux sommets en matière de turbulence. Il faudra attendre l’«Appassionata», op. 57, pour que Beethoven écrive un autre finale pour piano d’une telle intensité dramatique.

extrait des notes rédigées par Misha Donat © 2010
Français: Marie-Stella Pâris

Der Titel der Sonate op. 13 mag zumindest den Anschein von Authentizität beanspruchen können, was sich über den Beinamen der zweiten Sonate von op. 27 nicht behaupten lässt. Vielmehr geht er auf den Dichter und Musikkritiker Ludwig Rellstab zurück, den der berühmte erste Satz an eine Bootsfahrt im Mondschein auf dem Vierwaldstättersee erinnerte, und auch Beethovens Schüler Czerny nannte diesen Satz schon vor Rellstab „eine Nachtszene, wo aus weiter Ferne eine klagende Geisterstimme ertönt“.

Die Klaviersonaten op. 27 wurden 1801 mit dem gemeinsamen Untertitel „quasi una Fantasia“ veröffentlicht, wodurch die Freizügigkeit angedeutet wird, mit der Beethoven die traditionelle Sonatenform abwandelt. Der erste Satz der Mondscheinsonate trägt die Anweisung: Si deve suonare tutto questo pezzo delicatissimamente e senza sordino („Man muß dieses ganze Stück sehr zart und ohne Dämpfer spielen“). Zu dieser Zeit hatte Beethoven die Gewohnheit, „senza sordino“ für den Gebrauch des Sostenuto-Pedals zu verlangen, und wenngleich diese Anweisung auf einem modernen Klavier mit einiger Vorsicht zu befolgen ist, impliziert die Interpretation ein gewisses Maß an harmonischer Überblendung, um die Atmosphäre eines klagenden Mysteriums zu erzielen. Ähnlich überlappende Pedaleffekte wird Beethoven dann auch im Rondothema der „Waldstein“-Sonate verwenden.

Wie auch ein Jahr später in der Klaviersonate Nr. 17 d-Moll op. 31 Nr. 2 („Der Sturm“) setzt Beethoven die dunkle Mollstimmung in den beiden Ecksätzen der Mondscheinsonate durchgängig fort, während der mittlere Satz vollständig in Dur steht und von Liszt anschaulich als „eine Blume zwischen zwei Abgründen“ beschrieben wurde. Das Finale ist ein beharrlich aufgewühltes Stück, dessen Coda mit ihren „geklimperten“ kleinen Septimen sich zu neuen turbulenten Höhen die Tastatur hinauf schwingt. Erst mit der „Appassionata“ op. 57 komponiert Beethoven ein weiteres Klavierfinale von vergleichbar dramatischer Intensität.

aus dem Begleittext von Misha Donat © 2010
Deutsch: Henning Weber

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