Customer Reviews for: The French Album / Stephen Hough

5 Reviews in Total
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4 Star: 2 Reviews
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4.0 Stars (5 Reviews)

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 Hough's "French" Album April 16, 2013
By J. Vaughan (Tulsa, OK) -- See All My Reviews
Stephen Hough's "French Album" is a beautiful collection of piano music, done with the finesse and sensitivity we've learned to expect from him. But it's only partly French and for that reason seems rather like a collection of left-over tracks lumped randomly. The first two tracks are J.S. Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" and the "Arioso" from Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F minor. The concluding selection is Liszt's rather bombastic "Reminiscences de 'La Juive'". Three of the seventeen tracks are thus by non-French composers. We're grateful for all this music, rendered with great sensitivity and control. But there's so much superb French music that Hough might have offered, and doesn't. I'd give a lot to have his renditions of piano music by Franck, Lalo and Saint-Saens. The piece by Alkan("La chanson de la folle au bord de la mer")is interesting, but deficient in charm and melodic beauty. Hough generously offers four pieces by Faure and three by Poulenc. The album is well worth the price for those alone. The selections by Massenet and Chaminade are beautifully performed, as is Debussy's "Clair de Lune". One wishes, however, that Hough had chosen a piece less often performed. Flutist Richard Sherman recently released a disc with the same title: "The French Album". On it Sherman, accompanied by pianist Kimberly Schmidt, offers works by Poulenc, Milhaud, Faure, Dutilleux and--unusual--six of Debussy's pieces from the Songs of Bilitis, inspired by the prose poems of his friend Pierre Louys. These are rarely heard and are very welcome. Hough's phrasing and emotional depth are impressive throughout. I've never heard "Clair de Lune" played with more enchanting effect. The moods on the disc vary from lively and dramatic to playful, dreamy or nearly symphonic in complexity. I recommend the album, only wishing it were more "French". J. Vaughan Report Abuse

 A pleasant survey of short works October 19, 2012
By R Gregory Capaldini (Arlington, VA) -- See All My Reviews
Stephen Hough's immaculate pianism is applied here to various short pieces from French composers and arrangers. Hough applies some of his own transcribing expertise to the Bach D minor Toccata (it becomes a bit clangorous) and Delibes's Pizzicati (delightful). Mostly pieces are of the late-Romantic to WWI era, and Gabriel Faure is arguably best served, with a refreshingly un-draggy D-Flat Nocturne and one etude-like number that's surprisingly like late Debussy. Debussy, meanwhile, is represented by a gracious but dry-eyed Clair de Lune, Ravel by a nimble Alborada del Gracioso, and Poulenc by his cocktail-hour Melancolie and a couple short pieces that I'd have traded for his Caprice Italien, a the Napoli suite finale that Hough could really ace. Less memorable are brief petit-fours from Chaminade, Massenet and Chabrier. On his blog, Hough once responded to a fan enquiring as to non-musical hobbies that part of his free time is spent "worrying that I'm not practicing enough." Lack of preparation doesn't seem to be a problem here, and Coco Chanel would approve of the stylishly subtle touches heard in abundance. Report Abuse

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