Stephen Hough's French Album

Main-course Poulenc and Fauré among ‘French’ treats

Record and Artist Details

Composer or Director: Claude Debussy, (Alexis-)Emmanuel Chabrier, Gabriel Fauré, (Clément Philibert) Léo Delibes, Maurice Ravel, Francis Poulenc, Jules (Emile Frédéric) Massenet, Johann Sebastian Bach, Cécile (Louise Stèphanie) Chaminade, (Charles-)Valentin Alkan, Franz Liszt

Genre:

Instrumental

Label: Hyperion

Media Format: CD or Download

Mastering:

Stereo
DDD

Catalogue Number: CDA67890

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
Suite bergamasque Stephen Hough
Claude Debussy Composer
(10) Pièces pittoresques (Alexis-)Emmanuel Chabrier Composer
Stephen Hough
(13) Barcarolles Gabriel Fauré Composer
Stephen Hough
Sylvia Stephen Hough
(Clément Philibert) Léo Delibes Composer
Alborada del gracioso Maurice Ravel Composer
Stephen Hough
Mélancolie Francis Poulenc Composer
Stephen Hough
(La) Crépuscule Stephen Hough
Jules (Emile Frédéric) Massenet Composer
(15) Improvisations Francis Poulenc Composer
Stephen Hough
(5) Impromptus Stephen Hough
Gabriel Fauré Composer
Toccata and Fugue Stephen Hough
Johann Sebastian Bach Composer
(6) Etudes de concert Cécile (Louise Stèphanie) Chaminade Composer
Stephen Hough
Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings Johann Sebastian Bach Composer
Stephen Hough
(13) Nocturnes Gabriel Fauré Composer
Stephen Hough
(25) Préludes Stephen Hough
(Charles-)Valentin Alkan Composer
Réminiscences de La juive - Fantaisie brillante Franz Liszt Composer
Stephen Hough
(8) Nocturnes Francis Poulenc Composer
Stephen Hough
(8) Pièces brèves Gabriel Fauré Composer
Stephen Hough
Eh bien, voici un disque vraiment délicieux! Stephen Hough describes this album as ‘a sort of musical dessert trolley’. Come, come. Too modest. There may be generous helpings of bonbons and soufflés but it all amounts to a substantial gourmet feast of masterly pianism. Just looking at the menu inspires an anticipatory smile, beginning mischievously with a meaty hors d’oeuvre of German music arranged by the great Franco-Swiss pianist Alfred Cortot. This dips in and out of the more familiar arrangements of BWV565 by Busoni and Grainger in the course of making a more persuasive pianistic transformation than either. Hough opts for Cortot’s alternative final bars, ending on a refulgent D major chord. It was recorded in Minneapolis in 2009 and the remaining 16 items come from two sessions, a year apart, in the Wyastone concert hall, half of them from 2010 and played on a Yamaha, the others from 2011 on a Steinway. Only the keener ears will detect any tonal or acoustic discrepancies.

Central to the disc are the works by Fauré and Poulenc, heard to their best advantage when programmed in this way, hand-picked and set beside short works by Massenet and Chabrier. There are some great performances here. Hough can be too coolly objective at times but in this repertoire, perhaps paradoxically, the expressive simplicity of his playing can make your eyes burn. In Clair de lune and Chaminade’s once ubiquitous Automne, now rarely heard, Hough conjures up a heart-catching melancholy that put me in mind of Cherkassy. I can’t offer higher praise. If anyone wants to hear how to make a piano sing, they should listen to these and the Arioso from BWV1056 (another Bach-Cortot item). He ends with Liszt’s jejune, ferociously difficult Fantasy on themes from La Juive, surely one of his most vainglorious effusions, incorporating a few subtle Houghian nips and tucks. Excellent booklet. Fine recording. De plus, s’il vous plaît!

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