Long before the apparent Hummel recording craze hit, British pianist Stephen Hough introduced himself to us through a remarkable recording of two concertos (the A minor, Op.85, and B minor, Op.89) by the composer who is best remembered as being a contemporary of Beethoven and who was there at the great composer’s death bed.
It is hard to believe that this CD was made almost 20 years ago. In that time, the career of Stephen Hough has grown in leaps and bounds, and he has now secured a place among the world’s leading pianists. Hough is heard around the world performing with the world’s great orchestras, and has built a phenomenal discography that has earned him a wide number of distinguished awards.
It is interesting to note that he received this attention and these awards while managing to take a different path in his recording career. Yes, he has recorded and proven himself in the more standard classical repertoire (Mendelssohn, Brahms, Schumann etc), but a look at his official website, www.stephenhough.com, illustrates that he has mapped out a career of brilliance recording the music of Mompou, Schwarenka, Sauer, and Bowen. These are hardly household names!
His remarkable solo albums, dubbed The Piano Album, The Piano Album 2, The New Piano Album, The English Album, and New York Variations, have individually earned multiple honors and awards and collectively literally dozens of such tributes for the Hough discography.
Anyway, back to the Hummel recording. This music is a perfect blend of the harmonic voice of Beethoven and pianistic voice of Chopin. And by the way, it won an award as well, a Grammophone Magazine award winner:
In Stephen Hough's virtuosic hands, the coruscating final coda of the A minor Concerto is one of the most exciting things I've heard for years. Bravo.
As always, the English Chamber Orchestra under Bryden Thomson is beautifully recorded by the engineers at Chandos. Incidentally, Stephen Hough has since established himself as a fixture with Hyperion Records, and they all sound fabulous.
Take one listen to this disc all the way through and you will not only become a fan of Stephen Hough forever, but I think you also might find you will need to make a lot more room in the Hummel section of your library -- and I’m not talking about those cute little figurines.