This is what great Liszt records are made of. A selection of his finest piano music, with his most important piano work coupled with less well-known masterpieces, played by a pianist who combines all the necessary fire and virtuosity with ultra-sensitivity and refinement.
The B minor Sonata is one of the most important contributions to sonata form since Beethoven. Written as a single, expansive movement, utilizing Liszt's technique of thematic transformation, the Sonata is bold and forward-looking, and integrates enormous pianistic virtuosity into a profoundly original musical argument. Unusually for a composer who lavished poetic titles on so many of his works, revealing his literary or pictorial source of inspiration, Liszt said nothing about the B minor Sonata. Many believe it to be a portrayal of the characters in Goethe's Faust, others think it represents the different facets of Liszt's character. Truly great music can sustain a variety of interpretative responses, and Liszt's Sonata—one of the most powerful works to come out of the nineteenth century—is no exception.
The remaining works, although their titles are inextricably associated with Chopin, are most striking for Liszt's daring originality. The Second Polonaise, which was recorded by Rachmaninov, used to be a great favourite, while the Second Ballade is one of Liszt's finest works, with a magnificent sense of narrative drive and some of Liszt's most opulent rhetoric.
Stephen Hough needs little introduction as a Liszt pianist of extraordinary flair, passion and intelligence.
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Deux Polonaises, S223/R44
Ballade No. 1 in D flat major S170 ('Le chant du croisé')
Ballade No. 2 in B minor, S171/R16
Berceuse S174 (first version)
Piano Sonata in B minor, S178
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'At last, Hough tackles Liszt’s Sonata on record and the result is as musicianly as this fine pianist’s admirers might expect' Gramophone
'Hough transforms the rumbling, chromatic bass line [Ballade No 2] into an almost terrifyingly atmospheric setting' BBC Music Magazine
'[A] beautifully rendered collection … the wonderful refinement and quiet poetry of his playing is a constant joy. A highly distinguished disc' The Guardian
‘This is a superlative recording, one that defies criticism. Hough’s pianism is evocative, spiritual, and technically and tonally scrupulous. What better compliment could be given than to say that this is the way one imagines these pieces might have sounded when Liszt himself played them? Recorded sound is ideal, and an excellent, detailed booklet adds to the value of this outstanding release’ American Record Guide
'Hough at his meticulous best' Classic FM Magazine
'Thoughtful, intelligent, and beautifully recorded too – a special release' CDReview