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Pairing of musicians and composers rarely get as wonderful as this.
Composer: Grieg, Liszt
Repertoire: Piano Concerto (Grieg); Piano Concertos nos. 1 and 2 (Liszt)
Artists: Stephen Hough (pf), Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Litton
Label: Hyperion CDA 67824
The Music: Old sparring partners Hough and Litton (remember their fabulous set of Rachmaninov concertos on Hyperion, CDA 30014/2?) join up again for scintillating versions of both Liszt concertos with the Grieg thrown in for good measure!
The Performance: These two like-minded musicians manage to bring to these much-recorded works not merely thrilling virtuosity and lyrical depth but a Mendelssohnian lightness of touch where needed and, at other times, a sense of exultant self-assurance. And listen out for Hough’s blistering double-handed glissandi towards the end of the Second Concerto! Litton, himself a fine pianist, is one of the best orchestral accompanists on the planet, following Hough’s every nuance with pin-point precision and lovingly shaping the many woodwind and string solos. In the Grieg no phrase or gesture is taken for granted: the way in which the first movement’s cadenza emerges from what has gone before and the poise of the finale’s dance rhythm are just two examples.
The Verdict: Three of the greatest Romantic piano concertos on one disc in superb performances, beautifully engineered sound and with a fact-filled booklet. What’s not to like?