Thursday, 12 July 2018

CD Review (The Straits Times, July 2018)

Hyperion 68176 / *****

One has just about lost count of how many “Stephen Hough's Piano Albums” have been released since his very first anthology of delicious encore pieces and transcriptions (on Virgin Classics) first saw light of day in 1988. The British pianist's latest Dream Album is also his most personal. Seldom has gentle wit and prodigious technique been wedded to playing of such elegance, sophistication and personality.

Who would have thought of transforming Johann Strauss the Elder's rousing Radetzky March into a lilting and quintessentially Viennese Radetzky Waltz, or cross-dressing the Waltzing Matilda into a Caribbean rhumba? In his version of the 1950s Russian pop song Moscow Nights, he uses as a preface the opening chords of Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto.

There is also a Singapore dimension to some of his transcriptions. The Bill Evans-coloured Niccolo's Waltz (inspired by Paganini's Caprice No.24) was dedicated to Goh Yew Lin, Chairman of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, while his yearning look at Dvorak's Songs My Mother Taught Me was written for local concert pianist and teacher Victor Khor. 

Original works by Liszt, Sibelius, Elgar, Dohnanyi, Mompou, Ponce, Chaminade and Julius Isserlis (cellist Steven Isserlis' grandfather) among others complete this lovely collection. There is no shock and awe in the playing, only the pleasure of luxuriating in the company of intimate and well-loved friends.  

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