Hugh Canning
The Sunday Times
May 2015

With the obvious and understandable exception of the Norwegian Leif Ove Andsnes, few leading pianists today champion Grieg's exquisite miniatures, so this selection from Hough is as welcome as it is unexpected. This well-filled disc is the most generous I know, and the British pianist duplicates only 12 of the Nordic 'songs without words' chosen by Emil Gilels on his classic DG album and by Andsnes on his EMI (Warner) collection. With his virtuoso technique—which makes flashier pieces sound easy—he makes light work of Grieg's marching trolls (Op 54/3), initially comical, later more menacing, with an interlude of wistful reverie and the wedding celebrations at Troldhaugen (Op 65/6). His poetic eloquence and cantabile playing evoke magic in the songlike To Spring (Op 43/3) and mystery in the beautiful Notturno (Op 54/4) Hough frames the recital with Grieg's first Lyric Piece, Arietta (Op 12/1) and his last Remembrances (Op 71/7) in which he recalls the earlier music written two decades before. The entire programme shows Hough in his element, our foremost Romantic pianist.