Scriabin’s wife Tatiana wrote in a 1907 letter that his Piano Sonata No 5 was “extraordinary”. The same can be said of Stephen Hough’s rendition in new release Scriabin & Janáček: Sonatas & Poems. Hough opens the album with this musical concoction of chaos and bliss, exhibiting power through his overtly expressive and dynamic performance, before progressing to Janacek’s cycle On the Overgrown Path. Though a comparatively delicate work, Hough’s presence isn’t diminished. His performance of A Blown-away Leaf (Book 1, No 2) is a sentimental caress, later offset by a startlingly intense The Frydek Madonna (Book 1, No 4).
Scriabin soon returns with a jolt in his Deux Poèmes, Op 32—a musical contrast in fine taste which is felt throughout the release as the two composers’ works are interwoven. In fact the differences between Scriabin and Janáček grow fainter as the album progresses, with Hough’s musical approach and impeccable performance creating a sense of unity between them. Janáček’s Piano Sonata 1.X.1905 is a highlight and, well placed in the latter part of the album, it reveals Hough’s brooding dramaticism, preparing him for a final joyous release in the concluding Piano Sonata No 4 in F Sharp by Scriabin. Stephen Hough in all his brilliance is certainly a pianist to be heard unaccompanied. With about 50 albums under his belt, this latest is a must-have for piano lovers.