Stephen Hough – A Mozart Album

0 of 5 stars

Fantasia in C minor, K475
Piano Sonata in B flat, K333
Fantasia in C minor, K396 [completed Maximilian Stadler]
Hommage à Mozart – Étude, Op.103/6
Menuetto in D [from Mozart’s Divertimento, K334]
Three Mozart Transformations (after Poulenc)
Liszt / Busoni
Fantasia on two themes from Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”

Stephen Hough (piano)

Recorded 5-7 November 2006 in St George’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: March 2008
Duration: 70 minutes



If a Fantasia may be considered improvisatory then Stephen Hough captures the mood perfectly in that certain emphases and fluctuations, and contrasts of mood, have a ‘just thought of’ articulation. Two such fantasias (the one in C minor completed by Maximilian Stadler, 1748-1833), each with a sense of theatre, frame the B flat Sonata. To the C minor Fantasia, Hough brings much that is appositely tense and questing – an adventure – to which the sandwich-filling Sonata is spruce and gregarious, unsentimental (even for an Andante, the second movement seems a little too moved along, if songful) and wittily charming.

The disc’s ‘second half’ includes a rather sinuous Study by Johann Baptist Cramer (1771-1858) that pays tributes to and inherits Mozartean style but in an up-to-date (i.e. Chopinesque) manner – this track will be played often, so too Ignaz Friedman’s deliciously ornamented transcription of a well-known Mozart Minuet, played by Hough with delightful glee. Hough’s own Transformations take very early and very simple Mozart originals and journeys them to Paris, the tour-guide being Francis Poulenc, an aperitif to the (three-composer) Fantasia on “The Marriage of Figaro” – Busoni’s re-working of an incomplete Liszt work (the title is the Italian’s) in which Hough is the genuine virtuoso who is always serving a musical outcome, Liszt the beneficiary. So too Busoni. And Mozart.

Just occasionally, in ‘original’ Mozart, I thought the piano, as recorded, lacked a little presence, although it could be that Hough is playing well within the range of the instrument, for the Liszt fireworks fully open out the aural spectrum, albeit now the treble a little harsh. All in all, though, a thoroughly diverting take on Mozart.

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