Notes and Editorial Reviews
Stephen Hough's polished pianism and interpretive imagination freshly illuminate the Chopin Waltzes in ways that both complement and contrast recent cycles by Alexander Tharaud and Ingrid Fliter. He matches Tharaud's inner voice awareness and finger finesse but with a generally drier touch, while scaling down Fliter's extroverted affetuoso renditions to more intimate and discreet dimensions. On occasion Hough indulges in variety for its own sake, by inserting a rubato, a dynamic alteration, a tenuto, or a hesitation within a reiterated phrase that sounds more superimposed from without than organically conceived from within. Yet such quirks matter little in face of Hough's overall elegance and cultivation.
His sense of surprise
often wins me over. For example, his brisk dispatch of the Op. 64 No. 3 A-flat Waltz's main theme might be described as a kinder, gentler counterpart to Rachmaninov's similarly poker-faced interpretation, yet it barely prepares you for the dark undercurrents that surface when he stretches out the C minor theme. Also notice the "two-four" Op. 42 A-flat Waltz's lean textures and pared-down climaxes, the music box-like lightness he brings to the posthumous E-flat Waltz (as opposed to the super-serious Michelangeli), or the A-flat Op. 69 No. 1's atypical reserve, understatement, and utter freedom from sentimentality. And Hough's ideal tempo for the "Minute Waltz" conveys just the right animation and lilt, but with unusually crisp articulation that allows you to perceive the "air" between the notes--better for you to hear the performance than to rely on my description.
I also appreciate Hough's methodical running order. He starts with the eight waltzes published during Chopin's lifetime in chronological order, follows with the posthumously published works, and concludes with the three of doubtful origin. At the end, Hough offers the E-flat Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2, phrasing the triple-time left-hand accompaniment in less languid, more "waltzing" fashion than what we usually hear. As a result, the music reclaims its rightful profile and backbone. An altogether absorbing release.
– Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Featured Sound Samples
Waltzes for Piano, op 64: No 2 in C sharp minor
Waltzes for Piano, op 64: No 3 in A flat
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