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Track(s) taken from CDA67456

Ballade No 2 in F major, Op 38

1835/9; begins in F major, ends in A minor

Stephen Hough (piano)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Studio Master:
Studio Master:
Recording details: May 2003
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: February 2004
Total duration: 6 minutes 49 seconds

Cover artwork: Cupid and Psyche by Annie Louisa Swynnerton (1844-1933)
Oldham Art Gallery, Lancashire / Bridgeman Art Library, London

Other recordings available for download

Garrick Ohlsson (piano)
Nikolai Demidenko (piano)


'This is astonishing piano playing and Chopin interpretation, at its very best, fully measuresup to the greatness of these pieces. And to their freshness, not least; the Ballades and Scherzos, along with just about all Chopin's work, have been constsntly before the public, and Stephen Hough's accounts of them offer plenty of refinement to spirit and senses. It's not given to many to play them as well as he. Hough is unfailingly thoughtful; there's not a note that hasn't been cared for. …he combines a staggering technique with a genuinely engaging musical imagination. Handsomely recorded and produced.' (Gramophone)

'In the use of words like sensational, extraordinary, phenomenal, etc., critics have to be sparing, at risk of their credibility. But these adjectives are all appropriate to this new Chopin recital by Stephen Hough, which vaults him to the top rung in this repertoire, right next to Rubinstein' (American Record Guide)

'Hough has something unique and individual to say, with capricious daring and memorable directness. The beautifully balanced sound quality self-effacingly enhances what seemingly passes for a live experience uninhibited by microphones. Listen well and often for maximum reward and exhilaration.' (International Record Review)

'…to play Chopin with the rhythmic subtlety he requires without it seeming contrived is a rare gift. Stephen Hough has it in abundance' (The Sunday Times)

'Stephen Hough's quicksilver mastery of the idiom proves an unfailing guide throughout' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Hough has an awe-inspiring technique and the ability to play even the most rushed passages of Chopin with extraordinary clarity' (Fanfare, USA)
The Second Ballade is dedicated to Schumann and its violently opposed first and second subjects could hardly have been excelled by that master of vivid contrasts. The opening quaver crotchet rhythm establishes the basic compound duple time, but the music’s deceptively placid progress is enlivened by syncopation and several surprise turns, a remarkable instance of simplicity without monotony. The subsequent tornado (sufficiently sudden to encourage all lovers of programme music) subsides, and a series of left-hand scales gradually calms the fury of this wintry blast. The principal subject returns and after a brooding development and a passage of great improvisatory daring the second subject’s violence is once more unleashed. Insistent tremolandi and trills announce a coda whose percussive force looks ahead towards the twentieth century and to the caustic brilliance of Prokofiev. Chopin, however, reserves his masterstroke for the final bars where the opening theme reappears plaintif and resigned in A minor, its original and, in retrospect, naive optimism defeated.

from notes by Bryce Morrison © 2004

La Seconde Ballade dévoile une opposition violente des premier et second thèmes que Schumann, ce grand maître des contrastes vivides et dédicataire de l’œuvre, n’aurait guère pu surpasser. Le rythme initial de croche-noire établit le temps de base de la mesure binaire composée. Pourtant le progrès trompeusement placide de la musique est animé par des syncopes et plusieurs tournures surprenantes, un exemple remarquable de simplicité dénuée de monotonie. La tornade qui suit (suffisamment soudaine pour encourager tous les adeptes de musique à programme) s’évanouit, et une série de gammes à la main gauche calme progressivement la furie de cette bourrasque hivernale. Le thème principal revient. Après un large développement et un passage d’une grande audace improvisée, la violence du second thème se déchaîne de nouveau. Des tremolandi et des trilles insistants annoncent une coda dont la force percussive laisse préfigurer le XXe siècle et le brio caustique de Prokofiev. Chopin, pourtant, réserve son coup de maître pour les dernières mesures où le thème initial réapparaît en la mineur, plaintif et résigné, son optimisme originel et rétrospectivement naïf vaincu.

extrait des notes rédigées par Bryce Morrison © 2004
Français: Isabelle Battioni

Die Zweite Ballade ist Schumann gewidmet und die absolut unterschiedlichen beiden Hauptthemen hätten von dem Meister der starken Gegensätze kaum besser geschaffen werden können. Der Achtel-Viertel-Rhythmus am Anfang etabliert den Zweiertakt, jedoch wird der trügerisch beschauliche Fortschritt der Musik durch Synkopierungen und mehrere überraschende Wendungen aufgerüttelt: ein bemerkenswertes Beispiel für Schlichtheit ohne jede Monotonie. Der darauffolgende Sturm (der plötzlich genug kommt, um alle Liebhaber der Programmmusik anzusprechen) legt sich, und eine Reihe von Tonleitern in der linken Hand sorgt dafür, dass allmählich wieder Ruhe einkehrt. Das Hauptthema erscheint wieder und nach einer grüblerischen Durchführung und einer Passage von ungeheurer improvisatorischer Kühnheit wird die Heftigkeit des zweiten Themas noch einmal freigesetzt. Eindringliche Tremolandi und Triller kündigen eine Coda an, deren perkussive Kraft das 20. Jahrhundert und die beißende Brillanz Prokofievs vorwegnimmt. Chopin behält jedoch seinen Glanzstück bis zum Ende zurück, wenn das Anfangsthema Plaintif und in einem resignierten a-Moll zurückkehrt und der ursprüngliche – und rückblickend naive – Optimismus geschlagen ist.

aus dem Begleittext von Bryce Morrison © 2004
Deutsch: Viola Scheffel

Other albums featuring this work

Chopin: Ballades & Sonata No 3
Chopin: The Complete Works
CDS44351/6616CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
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