The emotional sweep of these marvellous works, reﬂecting the vicissitudes of Schumann’s personal life at the time - depressed, far from home, and forced away from the love of his life - calls for a pianist wholly responsive to their fervent Romanticism. The artistry of Stephen Hough proves ideal.
While Hough’s approach to Kreisleriana is supremely lyrical, he is especially adept at capturing the sudden, unsettling shifts of tone and mercurial mood swings. This vivid portrayal of madness could only be achieved by the utmost restraint and poise. Embarking on the great C major Fantasie, we are transported to a realm of almost ideal beauty. Hough’s various rubato strategies seem infinitely calibrated, each aptly suited to a specific emotional circumstance, while the attention to voice leading so prevalent in Kreisleriana is here redoubled to marvellous effect.
Stephen Hough brings his habitual cool authority to bear on these emotionally superheated pieces, and the results are very satisfying. Improvisational and intermittently hurtling, the first movement of the Fantasie has a nobility which segues gracefully into the serene singing middle movement, with its alternating baritone and soprano voices. In the finale Hough deploys some gorgeous effects, before bringing us gravely home.
– International Piano