Stephen Hough is one of several thoroughbreds in Hyperion’s stable of artists. I declared his French Album a disc to treasure; as it happens Dominy Clements felt the same way about the CD version of Hough’s Lyric Pieces. Minutes into the Grieg and it’s easy to see why. I’ve always been fond of Emil Gilels’ classic DG recording of these lovely miniatures; patrician the playing may be, but there’s a clarity to his playing that’s very impressive indeed.
Hough’s thoughtful and varied selection has as much to do with the success of this album as the playing itself. Delicacy follows declamation as passion succeeds poise, and one has to marvel at Hough’s fine control of touch and dynamics. Rhythms are expertly judged as well, and there’s no sense of the music being tugged about to unnecessary effect. He has a real feeling for Grieg’s phrases, and even those recurring motifs—which in lesser hands can seem almost redundant—seem an integral and necessary part of the developing narrative.
There’s nothing added or subtracted here; all you get is glorious, glowing Grieg. Factor in a recording that even by Hyperion’s stellar standards is rather special and you have an album that will delight piano- and audiophiles alike. Indeed, I’ve lived with this fabulous release for several weeks now, and I’m confident it will be high among my Recordings of the Year.
Playing of the highest order; class-leading sound, too.