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Track(s) taken from CDA67890



Stephen Hough (piano)
Recording details: May 2011
Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: September 2012
Total duration: 5 minutes 40 seconds

Cover artwork: Gasthof zur Muldentalsperre (2000-2002) by Peter Doig (b1959)
Collection Nancy Lauter and Alfred L McDougal / The Art Institute of Chicago / Photograph by Grant Hiroshima


'Stephen Hough calls his extremely generous, 79-minute, 17-item French Album ‘a sort of musical dessert trolley’, but that sells it short. It’s much more of a festive hamper, offering a full meal to lovers of French music, mixing up the familiar and the unknown with Stephen’s typical charm and panache' (The Mail on Sunday)

'A substantial gourmet feast of masterly pianism … central to the disc are the works by Fauré and Poulenc, heard to their best advantage when programmed in this way, hand-picked and set beside short works by Massenet and Chabrier. There are some great performances here … the expressive simplicity of his playing can make your eyes burn. In Clair de lune and Chaminade's once ubiquitous Automne, now rarely heard, Hough conjures up a heart-catching melody that puts me in mind of Cherkassky … excellent booklet. Fine recording. De plus, s'il vous plaît!' (Gramophone)

'Once again, Stephen Hough's consummate artistry extends to inspirational programme building … the Fauré group is ravishingly contrasted, with a fluency and limpid style supported by all the necessary backbone and sense of direction to make the composer's tortuous harmonic twists sound as natural as speech … chez Poulenc, the constantly shifting balance of melody, countermelody and accompaniment is defined by subtlety of dynamic shading, deft pedal work and brushstroke rubato … even by Hough standards the whole enterprise is a tour-de-force and easily the most satisfying disc of piano music I've encountered so far this year' (International Record Review)

'Stephen Hough is a treasurable musician of questing intelligence. His latest album is among the most enjoyable … the Fauré selections best display Hough's connoisseur touch. From the adventurous journey of the sixth Nocturne to the restless harmonies of the fifth Barcarolle, each selection springs a new surprise. The lighter French spirit surfaces in Hough's own arrangements of Délibes and Massenet, delivered with delicious wit and grace' (The Times)

'An exquisite arrangement of Massenet's Crépuscule … Ravel's Alborada del gracioso and Fauré's F sharp minor Impromptu are glitteringly played' (The Sunday Times)

'It is a stroke of genius to end with the Liszt/Halévy Réminiscences de La juive. Hough makes this Fantaisie brillante a true tour-de-force … a terrific disc' (International Piano)

'An unhackneyed selection. Everything is beautifully played; whether the four pieces by Fauré or the three by Poulenc, it is a feast of virtousity and poetry' (Dominion Post, New Zealand)
Where would Poulenc have been without his melancholic streak? It’s that juxtaposition of emotions that makes this composer once dubbed ‘half man, half thug’ so endlessly fascinating. And we find both aspects of his character rubbing shoulders here. Mélancolie opens with a wistful melody, almost Chopinesque in tone, set against a rippling backdrop; the whole effect is unashamedly nostalgic and gives little hint of the emotional rollercoaster to come. And as so often with Poulenc it is the moments where he’s smiling, where the harmonies and key flirt with the major, that he tugs at your heartstrings most profoundly. It’s perhaps not surprising to learn that Mélancolie was completed in 1940, in war-torn France.

from notes by Harriet Smith © 2012

Qu’aurait fait Poulenc sans son côté mélancolique? C’est cette juxtaposition d’émotions qui donne ce côté toujours fascinant à ce compositeur qualifié à une certaine époque de «moine et voyou». Et les deux aspects de son caractère se côtoient ici. Mélancolie commence avec une mélodie mélancolique, aux sonorités proches de Chopin, sur une toile de fond ondulante; l’effet est d’une totale nostalgie et ne laisse guère présager les montagnes russes émotionnelles à venir. Et comme souvent chez Poulenc, c’est au moment où il sourit, où les harmonies et la tonalité flirtent avec le majeur, qu’il fait vibrer en profondeur la corde sensible de ses auditeurs. Il n’est peut-être pas surprenant d’apprendre que Mélancolie a été achevée en 1940, dans une France déchirée par la guerre.

extrait des notes rédigées par Harriet Smith © 2012
Français: Marie-Stella Pâris

Wo wäre Poulenc ohne seine melancholische Ader gewesen? Es ist jene Nebeneinanderstellung von Emotionen, die diesen Komponisten, der einmal als „halb Mann, halb Rüpel“ bezeichnet wurde, so besonders faszinierend macht. Und hier kommen beide Aspekte seines Charakters miteinander in Berührung. Mélancolie beginnt mit einer wehmütigen Melodie, die man fast als Chopin’sch bezeichnen könnte, und ist gegen einen sich kräuselnden Hintergrund gesetzt, so dass das Ganze einen unverhohlen nostalgischen Effekt hat, wobei die bevorstehende emotionale Achterbahnfahrt kaum vorhersehbar ist. Wie so oft bei Poulenc gehen einem die Momente am nächsten, in denen er lächelt und wo die Tonart und die Harmonien mit Dur liebäugeln. Es ist nicht schwer nachvollziehbar, dass dieses Stück im Jahre 1940 im vom Krieg erschütterten Frankreich fertiggestellt wurde.

aus dem Begleittext von Harriet Smith © 2012
Deutsch: Viola Scheffel

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