Stephen Hough: Dream Album (Hyperion)
★★★★ (out of five)
In the hands of anyone other than Stephen Hough, this album would be either a horrible indulgence or a public act of psychoanalysis. Hough is far too fastidious a pianist to be suspected of such temptations. What we have here are morsels by composers great and (mostly) small, evoking a trance-like state between sleep and wakefulness.
I’m not sure about Hough’s opening setting of Strauss’s overworked Radetsky March, but thereafter he hardly puts a finger wrong. Das alte Lied by Henry Love will blow you away; Love was the pseudonym of Hilde Loewe, a Viennese refugee in London. In the Steppes by Julius Isserlis is no less captivating; Isserlis left Russia after the Revolution and seems to have suffered yearnings. A hybrid piece by Solovyov-Sedov crosses Rachmaninov’s most celebrated concerto opening with the sentimental Midnight in Moscow.
And so it goes. There is much to surprise here and much to admire. Not sure what Eric Coates’s desert island theme is doing here, or the Kathleen Ferrier torch-song, Blow the Wind Southerly, let alone Waltzing Matilda. But this is Hough’s taste, and it’s unfashionably eclectic, verging on kitsch. Personally, I loved it. Try some.