Stephen Hough in Recital

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 Concert Package,
SoundBite, Piano Highlights and Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16

Monday 26th October, 2015

Symphony Hall

Stephen Hough piano

Schubert Sonata in A minor D784 22’
Franck Prelude, Chorale and Fugue 22’
Debussy Estampes 13’
Liszt Valse Oubliées Nos 1 and 2 3’ & 6’
Transcendental Etude No 11 (harmonies du soir) 10’
Transcendental Etude No 10 5’

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Stephen Hough is a phenomenon: a pianist of astonishing technical skill with the ability to find profundity in even the flashiest of keyboard fireworks. Tonight he traces the darkness-to-light journeys of three great pianist-composers, and gives a recital that explores every side of his artistic personality: thinker, creator and consummate virtuoso.

Dvořák’s Piano Concerto

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Thursday 19th March 2015 at 2.15pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

Concert Packages

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Stephen Hough  piano

Dvořák: Piano Concerto 36′
Listen on Spotify

Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2 55′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

Is Rachmaninov’s Second the most romantic symphony ever written? With its vast, stormswept vistas, endless melodies and rapturous love-song of a slow movement, it’s certainly a contender, and Andris Nelsons conducts it with unbridled emotion. First, though, he rediscovers the spirited Piano Concerto by Antonín Dvorák – with one of the world’s finest living pianists as his partner. http://www.CBSO.co.uk

Support the CBSO

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Blog post by Stephen Hough about Dvořák’s Piano Concerto – here

Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony

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Wednesday 18th March 2015 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Stephen Hough  piano

Dvořák: Piano Concerto 36′
Listen on Spotify

Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2 55′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

Stephen Hough’s encore – Dvořák – Songs My Mother Taught Me

Is Rachmaninov’s Second the most romantic symphony ever written? With its vast, stormswept vistas, endless melodies and rapturous love-song of a slow movement, it’s certainly a contender, and Andris Nelsons conducts it with unbridled emotion. First, though, he rediscovers the spirited Piano Concerto by Antonín Dvorák – with one of the world’s finest living pianists as his partner. http://www.CBSO.co.uk

Support the CBSO

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Blog post by Stephen Hough about Dvořák’s Piano Concerto – here

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Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “I must confess that I don’t know the concerto all that well – performances are not frequent – but it seemed to me that Hough and Nelsons made the best possible case for it. Both displayed full engagement simply through their body language – Nelsons was his usual expressive self. Hough’s playing was expertly nuanced and full of character while Nelsons and his orchestra gave him consistently marvellous support. The first movement, which accounts for about half of the entire piece, is full of Dvořákian stylistic fingerprints and in the introduction Nelsons set out the stall for this performance, shaping the music with freshness and vitality; later, several of the tutti passages were suitably red-blooded. The piano part is almost modest in tone – certainly by comparison with many other nineteenth century concertos – but Hough played it most persuasively. The movement as a whole was attractive and, in this performance, winning. 

Much of the Andante sostenuto second movement is gently lyrical. It was a great shame that the opening minutes were marred by quite an amount of intrusive coughing. There was a note in the programme that the performance was being recorded and the microphones were something of a giveaway. Even so the members of what my colleague Mark Berry has so rightly called the Bronchial Terrorists made their presence felt without, it seemed, making any effort to stifle the coughs. It is to be hoped that Hyperion will be able to get a less interrupted take of these pages either at the second performance of this concert or from rehearsals. The music itself was wonderfully delivered. Hough’s touch was delightful while the CBSO partnered him beautifully. Some lyrical asides apart, the finale is mainly high spirited in character. It’s here that the Czech folk element seemed most prominent to me. The performance was exciting and often exuberant; Hough and Nelsons were fully engaged and gave every indication of enjoying the music. 

The concerto may not be universally regarded as Dvořák at his best but the Symphony Hall audience gave the work and the performers an extremely warm reception. Stephen Hough sent us on our way to the interval with an utterly charming Dvořák encore. Watch out for the CD when it appears. ”     […]

[…]     “Instead the ardent lyricism of the music came across in an ideal way, the reading passionate and impulsive yet in a very natural way. This was a very fine performance. 

The finale surged in an exciting and confident fashion. Rachmaninov’s lyrical digressions along the way were given their proper due but never in such a way that the sense of purpose was sacrificed. The performance had great momentum and drive; Nelson’s conducting had an electric charge to it. The CBSO gave their all here and the music pulsated with life and energy. The blazing conclusion elicited an ovation from the audience, and rightly so.

 This memorable performance offered proof, if proof were needed, that this is one of the truly great Russian symphonies. I missed Nelsons’ previous CBSO performances of the work back in 2008, near the start of his term with the CBSO but I’m jolly glad that before he departs I have experienced him in a score to which he is so manifestly suited. My only regret is that I assume the recording microphones, put in place for the concerto, were switched off during the symphony.”     …

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “Hough certainly made it seem the most attractive music in the world, making light of the more strenuous moments in the opening Allegro, adding silvery filigree to the Grieg-like passages in the slow movement, and steadily increasing the showiness of the finale. His Hyperion recording, taken from the Symphony Hall performances, should be a treat.

Nelsons followed the concerto with Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony. He and the orchestra very much emphasised the score’s darkness and introspection, and in a work that can sometimes be smothered in sentimentality, there was never a hint of indulgence. The first movement was positively combative, the scherzo explosive, and even the long-limbed, languorous clarinet tune in the Adagio, elegantly played by Oliver Janes, had a sense of purpose about it. Nelsons handles such vast orchestral canvases magnificently, conceiving them as a single irresistible span, yet still managing to make sense of every bit of detail along the way.”    

*****

Review by John Allison, Telegraph:

Click here for full review

…     “Now we are about to get a new addition to the discography, as Stephen Hough’s thrilling performance with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra will happily be released on the Hyperion label.

At Symphony Hall, Hough and the CBSO’s music director, Andris Nelsons, shed fresh light on the work and its place within Dvořák’s output. Written in 1876, shortly before his first set of Slavonic Dances, it already anticipates in its slow movement the composer’s “New World” voice, but it also looks back to Chopin and Beethoven – perhaps even earlier in the rustic, Haydnesque innocence of the opening movement’s second subject. After a long orchestral introduction, the piano’s entry itself recalls the opening chords of Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto, and the finale’s mix of cosmopolitan sophistication and folk-rooted dance suggests supercharged Chopin.

Hough had all the delicacy and steel-fingered virtuosity that implies, and played with blistering brilliance where required. But what made this performance truly special was his musical dialogue with Nelsons and the orchestra. This is not a piece that plays itself, and in the wrong hands its paragraphs can sound disconnected, but Nelsons worked hard here to give it satisfying coherence. Ultimately, it was pure Dvorak.”     …

*****

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “When it eventually appears it’s bound to be one of the records of the year, and could well join Hough’s two previous releases with the CBSO (Mendelssohn, Lawrence Foster conducting and Saint-Saens, Sakari Oramo conducting) as Gramophone award-winners.

This time round it will be the Schumann concerto (recorded live at Symphony Hall last November), and the rare Dvorak, which an excited and packed auditorium acclaimed last night.

As Hough’s deeply-committed and dedicated performance revealed, the Dvorak does in fact have many Schumannesque moments, particularly in the opening movement, so the coupling will indeed be appropriate.

Hough brings probing thoughtfulness to everything he touches, and the listener is too transfixed ever to consider virtuosity.

He preserved the essential intimacy of the work even in a context which was perhaps too overblown for Dvorak’s ideas, with shaded reserves of tone and a dreamy spontaneity. The piano-writing is not that of a pianist-composer, but Hough was able to make the keyboard communicate tellingly, even at the normally thin top of its range.

This was a richly rewarding partnership between piano and CBSO, Nelsons and Hough breathing as one, and there were some gorgeous orchestral gems, not least the horn opening to the andante, and the bravely sustained long note from the violins at that movement’s end. Songs My Mother Taught Me, short and very sweet, was the perfect encore.

And so we came to what probably most of the audience had thronged to hear, Rachmaninov’s irresistibly wonderful Second Symphony.

There was so much to relish here: the quietly sonorous initial tuba entry; Zoe Beyers’ sweet solos from the concertmaster’s desk; a beautifully-phrased clarinet in the slow movement’s famous solo.”     …

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Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Hough’s playing, too, was heroic in the many passages in which the soloist has to project their arpeggiated accompaniment to the main action that takes place in the orchestra. He also delighted in the moments of repose, including the lovely “Twinkle, twinkle” melody that cannot fail to cheer. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Andris Nelsons played with both heft and beauty, though orchestra and soloist took a little while to settle their tempi together. Nevertheless, there were lovely solo contributions from the principal bassoonist in the first and second movements and the principal horn in the second, an achingly tender balm after the relative bombast of the first.

While it felt as though Hough and Nelsons were having to strain every sinew to sell the first movement to the audience, they seemed to relax and have a great deal of fun in the dance rhythms of the Allegro con fuoco finale. This was evidenced in Nelsons’ characteristic leaps from the rostrum and a look of pure delight from Hough when the conductor and orchestra pulled off a remarkable feat of rubato – a grand pull-up into the orchestral ritornello after the development section. I think it will be a while before I fully appreciate this Cinderella work but with Hyperion’s microphones present at least I’ll be able to return to this team’s performance when the recording is released.”     …

Nelsons Conducts Bruckner’s Seventh

ThumbnailRelax and Revitalise

Saturday 29th November 2014 at 7.00pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
Stephen Hough  piano

Schumann: Piano Concerto 31′ Watch on YouTube

Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 (Haas) 68′
Listen on Spotify

Stephen Hough’s encore – Schumann: Träumerei 

Imagine a symphony played by an angel. That’s how Anton Bruckner first dreamed of the blissful opening melody of his Seventh Symphony – and when you hear it, you’ll understand why: this is music that scales sublime heights and heartrending depths. For Andris Nelsons, it’s a labour of love; so he begins by teaming up with the incomparable Stephen Hough in Schumann’s ever-fresh love-poem of a Piano Concerto.

Support the CBSO

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Review by Ken Ward, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “It had been prepared by a series of woodwind solos, the woodwind also on excellent form, which were enhanced by the decision to fully open the hall’s reverberant chambers for the Bruckner, the slight echo amplifying the characteristic timbre of each instrument, clarinets, oboe and flute.  Nelsons, already beating a very moderate Allegro, had slowed down significantly to allow this passage its full eloquence.

For the first time with this symphony Bruckner makes use of a quartet of Wagner tubas, and it’s always splendid to see the players assemble on stage with these large instruments of glistening gold.  They have the reputation of being a little troublesome to play, but the Birmingham musicians were faultless and glorious to hear. Their big moment is after the Adagio climax where they play a dirge in memory of Wagner himself, who had died whilst Bruckner was composing the symphony, a dirge capped with a blazing outcry from the horns – all of this magnificently accomplished. And they have repeated chorales to embellish the progress of the finale, and these were again beautifully done.

Altogether it was performance with many such highlights, mostly passages where the sheer beauty of the sound and excellence of the playing gripped one’s attention.     […]

[…]    Stephen Hough’s performance of the Schumann Piano Concerto in the first half had been filled with intelligence and vitality, a display of absolute mastery. The balance of piano and orchestra, and the interplay between soloist and members of the orchestra – especially the excellent clarinet playing of Oliver Janes – was a delight to hear. After the meditative Intermezzo, the exuberant finale broke through with refined high-spirits, presenting a bright and joyful spectacle.

Hough closed the first half with a nicely executed Träumerei from Schumann’s Kinderscenen.  Nelsons closed the concert with a little speech in which he thanked the audience for coming, wished them all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and said that he was really glad that so many people came to listen to Bruckner: “sometimes people are afraid, but actually, as you see, it is absolutely magic and absolutely amazing, particularly with this orchestra”.”

Nelsons Conducts Bruckner’s Seventh

ThumbnailRelax and Revitalise

Thursday 27th November 2014 at 2.15pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Stephen Hough  piano

Schumann: Piano Concerto 31′ Watch on YouTube

Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 (Haas) 68′
Listen on Spotify

Stephen Hough’s encore  – Chopin: E-Flat Nocturne

Imagine a symphony played by an angel. That’s how Anton Bruckner first dreamed of the blissful opening melody of his Seventh Symphony – and when you hear it, you’ll understand why: this is music that scales sublime heights and heartrending depths. For Andris Nelsons, it’s a labour of love; so he begins by teaming up with the incomparable Stephen Hough in Schumann’s ever-fresh love-poem of a Piano Concerto.

Support the CBSO

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “There was a wonderful sense of release as the opening movement eased into its recapitulation as Nelsons so patiently delineated the music’s architecture, and the extended coda’s dynamics were so well-managed over the tension-building timpani roll.

And out of all the orchestral contributions special mention must be made of Marie-Christine Zupancic’s flute, now fluttering like a dove, now radiant as a halo.

Around her and oboist Rainer Gibbons the woodwind section is rebuilding itself into the strength it once possessed, and it was good to welcome Oliver Janes, the 23-year-old grandson of John Fuest, one-time principal clarinet of the CBSO, into his grandfather’s chair.

The Schumann Piano Concerto could not have been a better choice for his debut in the position, full of poignant dialogue between clarinet and piano, and Janes certainly had a formidable collaborator in Stephen Hough, whose pianism combined authority with spontaneous generosity of phrasing.

Naturally Nelsons and the CBSO accompanied totally in sympathy, and it’s good to know that Hyperion recorded this performance, renewing their award-winning partnership of Hough with the orchestra.”     …

*****

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The doors to the reverberation chamber behind the orchestra had been opened as wide as possible for the performance, and though that didn’t create the kind of cathedral acoustic that permeates so much of Bruckner’s symphonic thinking, it was enough to give a delicate colour to the work’s silences and to extend the effect of its cadences. Generally, though, Nelsons kept things airy and transparent; it was clear from the veiled lightness of the strings at the start that this was not going to be heavyweight, minatory Bruckner, but something much more athletic, direct and texturally interesting. If anything, the rhetoric was underplayed: the close of the first movement was not the brassy triumph some conductors make of it, but more measured and provisional, and even the shattering climax of the slow movement and the reconciliation of the finale kept something in reserve.

In some ways, too, the symphony had been upstaged by Schumann’s Piano Concerto, with Stephen Hough as soloist before it. That had been a performance of such startling freshness and clarity that one of the most familiar of all 19th-century piano concertos seemed totally reimagined, with the sweep and vigour supplied by Nelsons and the orchestra as the perfect foil to Hough’s cool brilliance.”

Nelsons conducts Strauss

Thursday 12 January 2012 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121-780 3333

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Stephen Hough  piano

Strauss: Tod und Verklärung 24′ 
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 1 26′ 
Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra 32′ Listen on Spotify 

 Stephen Hough’s Encore – Strauss: Traümerei

“I mean to convey in music an idea of the whole evolution of the human race.” Richard Strauss never did anything by halves, and when you hear the stupendous opening fanfare of Also sprach Zarathustra, it’ll blow you sideways. In this blockbuster concert, Andris Nelsons takes his love affair with Strauss to the next level, beginning with Strauss’s visionary Death and Transfiguration, and featuring a guest appearance from the man who might just be the most brilliant piano virtuoso on the planet: the incomparable Stephen Hough.

Find out what our musicians love about this music – watch music director Andris Nelsons and CBSO cello section leader Ulrich Heinen discussing Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra.

To listen to some of the music in this concert, and explore the rest of the season, using our Spotify playlists, click here.

http://www.cbso.co.uk

Review by Fiona Maddocks, The Observer:

Click here for full review

“Double basses quiver and swirl on a note so murky it is hard to hear the pitch. A lone trumpet ascends in a three-note sunrise through an octave, followed by a cataclysm of thundering drumbeats. Add to that the evolution of the human race, man, superman, illness, death, transfiguration, a levitating Latvian maestro and a flying baton dropped somewhere amid the cellos and this was Symphony Hall, Birmingham last Thursday night, the CBSO’s first major concert of the year – broadcast live on Radio 3 and repeated last night. When that baton’s owner isAndris Nelsons, always excitedly athletic on the podium, players are no doubt used to ducking these identified flying objects.” …

Review by Rian Evans, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…     “Expectation was rewarded with stunning opening to Tod und Verklärung: the death-bed scene was evoked with reverence yet tinged with a mysterious aura of the great unknown; woodwind phrases hovered gently in the air, the quality of the CBSO string-playing simply breathtaking. Nelsons then launched headlong into the Allegro molto agitato, where life pits itself against death, with blazing ferocity. The players responded with precision and the brass excelled in the transfiguration theme bringing an elegant legato upward sweep and transcendent glow. The placing and internal balance of Strauss’s evocative harmonies was also impeccably controlled by Nelsons, drawing the listener deep into the heart of the music.”    …

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “But Nelsons was able to put all thoughts of new life behind him, summoning tautly-strung delicacy for the opening deathbed scene, drawing eloquent woodwind and violin solos, and in the febrile textures of the ensuing tortured struggle urging the strings to ride high over menacing brass.
The climax was heart-stopping – we feared literally so, given the energy Nelsons was burning here; but he then found quiet affirmation at last from the brass as he opened the Pearly Gates.”     …