Notes and Editorial Reviews
The three sonatas Stephen Hough has selected for this recital not only reveal Johann Nepomuk Hummel as a plausible "missing link" between Beethoven and Chopin, but also as a formidable, creative force in his own right. Maybe he's not so memorable a melodist as Chopin nor a protean architect on the level of Beethoven, but Hummel's piano writing still sounds idiomatic and invigorating to modern ears. It's also quite difficult. The F-sharp minor sonata's dramatic finale, for instance, allows little respite from its unrelenting broken octaves, taxing runs, and double notes, while the gnarly dotted rhythms, imitative writing, and thick chords permeating the D major sonata's Scherzo evoke the
Schumann to come.
No matter how difficult the music, Stephen Hough's effortless technique and eloquent, characterful musicality make everything sound easy. What's more, he never sacrifices power for speed. Listen for example to the way he gives the challenging, spiraling triplets in the F minor sonata's finale their full dynamic due, maintaining a full, tonally varied sonority with virtually no help from the sustain pedal. In sum, it will take a heap of work and tons of inspiration for future pianists to match Hough's reference standards here. This is a valuable release and a joyous listening experience all in one: don't miss it. [4/12/2004]
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less
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