Hugh Canning
The Sunday Times
February 2021

Connections with Manuel de Falla’s opera remain obscure in Hough’s similarly named Sonata No 4 Vida Breve, but in this characteristically ingenious concept album he places his 2018 work as the climax to a sequence of masterpieces by other great pianist composers. At less than ten minutes, it never outstays its welcome with its tonal idiom and the flashes of bravura and tenderness that characterise his playing. Hough’s concept is death, starting with magisterial accounts of Busoni’s famous transcription of Bach’s Chaconne and continuing with Chopin’s Funeral March sonata and Liszt’s Funerailles. There’s a demonically witty glint in the last’s Bagatelle sans tonalité and in Busoni’s Chamber Fantasy on Carmen. His playing of the Chopin march’s second subject draws on his love of operatic bel canto and is seamlessly lyrical. There is something for every pianophile here.