From the cacophony of recorded music that swirls around us in 2018 comes this lovely disc. Pianist Stephen Hough takes us on a civilised and largely gentle journey through his many arrangements of familiar melodies for piano. It makes for an enchanting CD.

He begins with a waltz adaption of Strauss’ Radetzky March. It is given a soft touch in Hough’s arrangement; this is not a criticism, only an observation.Two items from Don Quixote by Minkus are delicately essayed. In the same vein is Manuel Ponce’s Intermezzo No 1 and from Cécile Chaminade’s Suite de Piano we get Pas de Écharpes. She is a composer we don’t get to hear much these days; her beguiling music matches the mood of the opening pieces. Similarly, Dvořák is represented by two items, Humoresque No 7 and his famous Songs My Mother Taught Me.

It takes Liszt’s passionate Harmonies du Soir and F Minor Etude for things to get
fired up while Dohnányi’s Third Rhapsody also provides a welcome burst of energy. This is a wonderful piece with its galloping passages and grand melody.

Rarer fare, such as the languid Scènes d’Enfants by Federico Mompou and In the Steppes by Julian Isserlis – father of the cellist – continue the mood while Moscow Nights provides a slinky tone in the mix. Noticing Albéniz’ Capricho Catalán in the lists I’d expected a good old clash of the castanets, but no, it is a quietly ruminative piece, in keeping with the tone of the collection.

Hough is represented as composer in the spectacular Osmanthus Romp, which is a rip, during which he seems to play all the notes at once. The bookend is the meditative Osmanthus Reverie.

The Brits get a look in with Elgar’s Salut d’Amour, Coates’ By the Sleepy Lagoon and Blow the Wind Southerly – luverly stuff. Then there is the pianist’s droll take on Waltzing Matilda in Matilda’s Rumba. It is a treat: witty and fun.

There’s much more, and the playing throughout the 27 items is immaculate, making this a welcome contrast to his more serious work elsewhere. Of course, Mr Hough clearly makes no distinction between playing a trifle and a Mozart sonata, which is as it should be.

Hough is considered something of a renaissance man in that he does more than just play the piano. He writes, he blogs and on top of all this he is now an Aussie!


Composer: Elgar, Chaminade, Liszt
Performer: Stephen Hough p
Catalogue Number: Hyperion CDA68176

Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine