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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Stephen Hough Reminds Us What Dreams Are Made Of

By Norman Lebrecht on May 25, 2018

Pianist, poet, and painter Stephen Hough. (Photo: Sim Canetty-Clarke)
Pianist, poet, and painter Stephen Hough. (Photo: Sim Canetty-Clarke)

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.

Stephen Hough: Dream Album (Hyperion) is available from amazon.ca and iTunes.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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