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Track(s) taken from CDA67456

Ballade No 3 in A flat major, Op 47


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: 7 minutes 3 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)
James Rhodes (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)
After such despondency the Third Ballade seems positively light-hearted. Based on two principal motives contained in the opening bars Chopin’s free-wheeling style once more thinly disguises a remarkable coherence, balance and symmetry. First played before an audience ‘full of golden ribbons, soft blue gauzes and strings of trembling pearls’ its musical charms could hardly fail to succeed. Others, perhaps less lavishly attired, will note that although Chopin’s contrapuntal skill in the working-out section is considerable he wears his learning lightly. With Chopin, art conceals art and the way he achieves such fine gradations and inwardness of feeling is discreetly veiled from view. Even a sudden central change to C sharp minor cannot cloud the music’s radiance for, via a series of daring modulations, the opening theme finally emerges triumphant, firmly established in the home-key and with a final cascade of ideas, previously employed, to suggest tumultuous applause.

from notes by Bryce Morrison © 2004

Après un tel désenchantement, la Troisième Ballade semble étonnamment légère. Elaboré sur deux motifs principaux énoncés dans les premières mesures, le style sans contraintes apparentes de Chopin dissimule à peine une cohérence, un équilibre et une symétrie remarquables. Exécutée pour la première fois devant un parterre plein de rubans dorés, de gaze doucement bleutée et de rangées de perles tremblantes, elle fit preuve d’un charme musical qui ne pouvait que lui assurer son succès. D’autres, d’une tenue peut-être moins somptueuse, noteront que si Chopin fait montre de qualités contrapuntiques considérables dans la section de développement, il ne les pavoise pas pour autant. Avec Chopin, l’art cache l’art. La manière dont il parvient à des nuances aussi subtiles et fines, à des sentiments introspectifs, se dissimule discrètement au regard de tous. Même un brusque changement central vers do dièse mineur ne peut colorer le rayonnement lumineux de la musique car, à travers une série de modulations audacieuses, le thème initial émerge pour finir triomphant, établi fermement dans la tonalité principale et avec une cascade finale d’idées usitées auparavant pour suggérer des applaudissements tumultueux.

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

Nach dieser Niedergeschlagenheit erscheint die Dritte Ballade geradezu fröhlich und unbekümmert. Das Stück fußt auf zwei Hauptmotiven, die in den Anfangstakten vorgestellt werden, wo wiederum eine bemerkenswerte Kohärenz, Balance und Symmetrie von Chopins freiem Stil nur leicht verschleiert wird. Als es das erste Mal vor einem Publikum „voller Goldbänder, leichter blauer Taftstoffe und Bändel mit zitternden Perlen“ vorgeführt wurde konnte der musikalische Charme kaum scheitern. Andere, möglicherweise weniger luxuriös gekleidet, werden bemerken, dass Chopin trotz seines kontrapunktischen Vermögens im Durchführungsteil sein Talent kaum anwendet. Bei Chopin verbirgt die Kunst die Kunst, und seine feinen Abstufungen und seine Intimität bleiben stets leicht verschleiert. Sogar ein plötzlicher zentraler Wechsel nach cis-Moll kann den Glanz der Musik nicht trüben, da nach einer Reihe von kühnen Modulationen das Anfangsthema schließlich triumphierend hervortritt und in der Grundtonart fest verankert ist. Eine letzte Kaskade von Einfällen – Ähnliches erklang bereits zuvor – stellt tumultartigen Applaus dar.

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)
James Rhodes 5
Studio Master: SIGCD371Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
The Stephen Hough Piano Collection
HOUGH1Super-budget price sampler
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