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Track(s) taken from CDA67456

Scherzo No 2 in B flat minor, Op 31


Stephen Hough (piano)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Studio Master:
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Recording details: May 2003
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: February 2004
Total duration: 9 minutes 42 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)
Cédric Tiberghien (piano) November 2017 Release
Nikolai Demidenko (piano)
Artur Pizarro (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)
The Scherzo No 2 in B flat minor, Op 31, was written and published in the same year as Chopin wrote the ‘Funeral March’ from his Piano Sonata No 2 in B flat minor, Op 35. The scherzo is another form extended and redefined by Chopin. The quartet of independent works he composed with this title between 1831 and 1843 has little to do with the earlier scherzos of Beethoven and Mendelssohn or with the derivation of the word ‘scherzo’ (meaning ‘joke’ or ‘jest’), although Chopin does preserve the A-B-A structure of the minuet and trio, the scherzo’s musical antecedent.

The B flat minor scherzo, the most popular of the four, opens with a striking phrase which has been aptly cited as an instance of scorn in music: a timid question followed by a forceful put-down. Wilhelm von Lenz, who studied the work with Chopin, reported that for the composer, ‘it was never questioning enough, never piano enough, never vaulted (tombé) enough, never important enough’. And on another occasion: ‘It must be a charnel house.’ There follows one of Chopin’s most inspired lyrical themes (in D flat major, as is the majority of the scherzo) before a chorale-like central section. Here the music becomes increasingly agitated before reaching an impassioned climax and a return to the opening subject. The coda is superbly written and conceived, for now the questioning phrase returns in an altered form followed by the answer. But this time the question has been answered—not with scorn but with complete accord, and the two hurtle together towards the scherzo’s triumphant conclusion.

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2017

Le Scherzo n° 2 en si bémol mineur, op.31, fut écrit et publié la même année que Chopin écrivit la «Marche funèbre» de sa Sonate pour piano n° 2 en si bémol mineur, op.35. Le scherzo est une autre forme étendue et redéfinie par Chopin. Le quatuor d’œuvres indépendantes qu’il composa sous ce titre en 1831 et 1843 n’a pas grand chose en commun avec les scherzos antérieurs de Beethoven et de Mendelssohn ou avec la dérivation du mot «scherzo» (signifiant «plaisanterie»), bien que Chopin préserve la structure A-B-A du menuet et trio, l’ancêtre musical du scherzo.

Le scherzo en si bémol mineur, le plus populaire des quatre, débute par une phrase saisissante qui a été citée à juste titre comme un exemple de dédain en musique: une question timide suivie d’une vigoureuse remarque humiliante. Wilhelm von Lenz, qui étudia cette œuvre avec Chopin, signala que pour le compositeur, «elle n’était jamais assez interrogatrice, jamais assez piano, jamais assez tombée, jamais assez importante». Et à une autre occasion: «Ce doit être un charnier.» Vient ensuite l’un des thèmes lyriques les plus inspirés de Chopin (en ré bémol majeur, comme la majorité du scherzo) avant une section centrale dans le style d’un choral. Ici, la musique devient de plus en plus agitée avant d’atteindre un sommet passionné et un retour au sujet initial. La coda est une merveille d’écriture et de conception, car la phrase interrogatrice revient à présent sous une forme modifiée suivie de la réponse. Mais maintenant la question a reçu une réponse—pas avec mépris mais avec accord total, et les deux s’élancent ensemble vers la conclusion triomphale du scherzo.

extrait des notes rédigées par Jeremy Nicholas © 2017
Français: Marie-Stella Pâris

Chopin schrieb und dann auch veröffentlichte das Scherzo Nr. 2 b-Moll, op. 31, im selben Jahr wie den Trauermarsch seiner Klaviersonate Nr. 2 b-Moll, op. 35. Das Scherzo ist eine weitere Form, die Chopin erweiterte und neu definierte. Die vier selbständigen Werke dieses Titels, die Chopin zwischen 1831 und 1843 komponierte, haben wenig mit den älteren Scherzi eines Beethoven oder Mendelssohn oder gar mit der Herkunft des Wortes zu tun, das „Witz“ oder „Scherz“ bedeutet; allerdings behält Chopin den A-B-A-Aufbau des Menuetts mit Trio bei, des musikalischen Vorläufers des Scherzos.

Der markante Anfang des Scherzo b-Moll, des beliebtesten der vier Scherzi, wurde treffend als musikalisch gefasste, harsche Zurückweisung beschrieben: eine schüchterne Frage, gefolgt von einer niederschmetternden Antwort. Wilhelm von Lenz, der das Werk mit dem Komponisten einstudierte, berichtete, für diesen sei es „nie genug Frage, nie piano genug, nie genug gewölbt (tombé), nie bedeutsam genug“ gewesen … „Ein Todtenhaus muss es sein!“ Es folgt eines der schönsten lyrischen Themen Chopins (in Des-Dur wie der Großteil des Scherzos), dann ein choralartiger Mittelteil. Hier wird die Musik immer erregter, bevor sie einen passionierten Höhepunkt erreicht und zum Anfangsthema zurückkehrt. Grandios geschrieben und geformt ist die Coda: Hier kehrt die fragende Figur verändert wieder, gefolgt von der Antwort—doch nun ist die Frage beantwortet, und zwar nicht abweisend, sondern zustimmend; und beide Motive stürmen vereint in den triumphalen Schluss des Scherzos.

aus dem Begleittext von Jeremy Nicholas © 2017
Deutsch: Friedrich Sprondel

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