Graham Rickson
June 2015

Grieg's complete Lyric Pieces would fill three discs, but Stephen Hough's recording is all that most of us will ever need; Hough's selection of 27 contains many of the best-known and a fair few ripe rediscoveries. Twenty-eight short pieces pass in the blink of an eye; each one with a distinct flavour, each one approached with utter sincerity and deep affection. Hough is one of the smartest, most intelligent of pianists, but his erudition serves the Grieg, not his ego. He opens his collection with the same 'Arietta' with which Emil Gilels began his famous DG disc. Hough's swift, flexible approach is tougher but no less appealing. He's alive to Grieg in more melancholy mode; the “Berceuse”'s yearning intervals have real poignancy. And, sweetly, the recital ends with the last Lyric Piece of all, a gorgeous revisiting of the 'Arietta''s melody.

There's too much else to mention in full. Butterfly has a dazzling nonchalance. The tantalisingly-named Erotikon is a disappointing sober, sweet love song to Grieg’s wife Nina. Hough nails the Elegy’s elusive mood, while his March of the Trolls is brilliantly pointed and witty. I’d forgotten how modern-sounding Bell Ringing sounds, and Homeward is a blast. Wedding Day at Troldhaugen is crisp and sharp. This is the musical equivalent of a box of high-end chocolates, though one which you can happily consume without ill-effects. Beautifully recorded, Hough swapping his usual Steinway for the clearer sonorities of a new Yamaha.