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Grieg, Liszt: Piano Concertos / Litton, Hough, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra

Grieg / Liszt / Bergen Philharmonic / Hough
Release Date: 11/08/2011 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67824   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz LisztEdvard Grieg
Performer:  Stephen Hough
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



Introspective (but never lost in introspection) one minute, of the most refined bravura the next, he expresses a personality all his own, brilliantly alert to mercurial changes of mood and clearly riding on the crest of a wave of success. With technique honed to a state of diamond-like brilliance, he gives us rapier-like cadenzas and glissandos ... that flash like summer lightening.

– Gramophone [1/2012]

"Does the world really need another recording of the Grieg piano concerto? The answer has to be an emphatic yes when the soloist is the barnstorming Stephen Hough, a pianist with the fascinating ability to take a venerable work, strip it
Read more of its patina and present it as though for the very first time." - Stephen Pritchard, The Guardian
Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Piano no 1 in E flat major, S 124 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Stephen Hough (Piano)
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1849/1856; Weimar, Germany 
2.
Concerto for Piano no 2 in A major, S 125 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Stephen Hough (Piano)
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839/1861; Weimar, Germany 
3.
Concerto for Piano in A minor, Op. 16 by Edvard Grieg
Performer:  Stephen Hough (Piano)
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868/1907; Norway 

Featured Sound Samples

Piano Concerto no 2 (Liszt): III. Un poco meno mosso
Piano Concerto in A minor (Grieg): III. Allegro moderato molto e marcato

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Poetry and Fireworks aplenty here March 3, 2012 By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH) See All My Reviews "It has become so common to see the Grieg and Schumann Concertos coupled together on CD that this Liszt - Grieg compilation comes as a surprise. The Grieg - Schumann combo makes a certain kind of sense, in that both concertos are in A Minor, primarily lyrical, and start with an orchestral hit followed by a cadenza-like passage for piano. But the Liszt - Grieg makes historical sense because Liszt was among the first to see this concerto before it was published, and was notably enthusiastic.

Critics tend to compare pianists with legendary elders (Volodos is the new Horowitz; Brendel was the new Schnabel, etc.). Stephen Hough reminds me not so much of any pianist as of a conductor: Arturo Toscanini. No, Hough is not temperamental like the Italian Maestro. But his approach to music interpretation seems to be to discard traditional tempo changes, rubatos, and the like (which Toscanini derided as "the last bad performance"), study the score as if it were being played for the first time, and make any interpretive decisions on that basis.

Hough's rendition of the Liszt E-flat Concerto effectively melds virtuoso fireworks in the outer movements, with melting poetry in the second. I've seldom heard those first movement octaves tossed off with such sharpness. Too often, I've heard pianists play the second movement flatly, passing time until they can move on to the "fun" parts. Not here - Hough makes it seem like we're encountering this music for the first time. The finale is given at a steadier tempo than customary, so the structure of the piece emerges clearly - not something Liszt often gets credit for. Those tricky repeated note passages are played to perfection, unlike Arthur Rubinstein's two recordings where they sound garbled. A note on the orchestra's contribution: it's nice to hear the triangle solo in proper perspective: discreet - not garish as in too many recordings.

In Hough's hands, the opening of A Major Concerto is epic, as if it springs directly from the Years of Pilgrimage, building to an enormous climax at movement's end. As with the first concerto, the lyrical second movement is given its due. For me, part of the secret of great music making is that it leads from note to note, phrase to phrase - taking the listener on an emotional journey. That's how Hough makes sense of a concerto that is too often the excuse for shallow virtuosity - rather than the musical virtuosity Hough brings to the fore.

Many have, and still do, treat the Grieg Concerto as "cheap stuff." Here, the lines of the first movement emerge clearly, thanks to Hough's sparing use of the sustaining pedal. The second movement is permeated with a sense of restrained longing, while the finale effectively melds the extroversion of the outer sections with the poetic central interlude. Hough's playing is backed up by particularly fine orchestral playing from the Bergen Philharmonic under Andrew Litton - this is the clearest string playing I've ever heard in this piece.

The sound is focused without being overly immediate, with an excellent balance between piano and orchestra. "
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