Here is some of the finest piano music to have come out of the nineteenth century. Chopin’s Ballades and Scherzos are individual creations of extraordinary expressive range and daring originality; they are among the most taxing works of the piano repertoire, as much for their interpretative challenges as their formidable technical ones.
This recording finds Stephen Hough on top form. He has performed these works in concert for many years, and with his dazzling pianism, penetrating intellect, beauty of sound and clarity of line, he is superbly equipped for this music. Unusually, Hough alternates the Ballades and Scherzos, as he feels that this sequence gives us a closer sense of continuous and unfolding musical biography, and that by dispensing with the cycle format the listener is enabled to hear each piece as an individual entity—as eight startlingly original and unique works.
A truly memorable disc, one surely set to become a top recommendation.
RECORD(S) OF THE YEAR 2004 (The Sunday Times)