PIANIST STEPHEN HOUGH PAIRS CONCERTOS BY SCHUMANN AND DVOŘÁK ON A NEW RECORDING WITH ANDRIS NELSONS AND
THE CITY OF BIRMINGHAM SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
TO BE RELEASED BY HYPERION RECORDS ON APRIL 8, 2016
Pianist Stephen Hough sets side-by-side solo piano concertos by two preeminent figures of 19th century music, Robert Schumann and Antonín Dvořák, in a new recording with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andris Nelsons, to be released by Hyperion Records on Friday, April 8. The juxtaposition of the rarely heard Dvořák work with the familiar Schumann concerto exemplifies the characteristic idiom of both composers while revealing a new perspective on the pianistic writing of each, as well as the solo piano concerto form overall. The recording is currently available for pre-order in the U.S. from Amazon.com and iTunes.
This recording release coincides with U.S. performances by Mr. Hough in both works: Dvořák’s Piano Concerto in G minor, Op. 33 with the Cleveland Orchestra led by Alan Gilbert on March 3, 5 and 6 in Cleveland, and Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra led by Christian Arming on March 17, 19 and 20 at NJPAC in Newark and the State Theatre in New Brunswick.
Though born more than a generation apart and in different milieu—Robert Schumann, German pianist and music critic from Saxony, and Antonín Dvořák, Czech composer from Bohemia, who took inspiration from Slavic folk music traditions—both composers and their piano concertos bear striking affinities, as Steven Isserlis points out in his liner notes to this Hyperion recording. Mr. Isserlis observes “both concertos were completed within weeks of their respective composers’ thirty-fifth birthdays; both were written quickly, in bursts of inspiration; both were initially rejected by publishers; both employ identical instrumentation, with classical-sized orchestras—Dvořák citing Schumann’s as a model in that respect, for his adherence to Mozartean proportions; both were their composers’ first and only completed piano concertos, to be followed by single concertos for violin and cello; and both concertos most crucially, treat piano and orchestra as equals.” They share another significant link in the figure of Johannes Brahms, “who was to sponsor Dvořák’s career in much the way Schumann had sponsored his own,” cites Mr. Isserlis. And while Clara Schumann, the composer’s wife, gave the premiere of his piano concerto in 1845 in Dresden, Brahms championed this Schumann work, including performances of the concerto after the elder composer’s death.
Both works are vehicles for particular pianistic display. Mr. Hough says, “The Dvořák concerto is the ultimate lyric concerto, anti-virtuosic and deeply soulful—yet impossibly awkward to play. This concerto for ten thumbs is actually one of my favourites. It has a rare tenderness and human warmth which, when discovered, never loses its power.”
A recent review in the Sydney Morning Herald assesses Stephen Hough’s performance of the Dvořák concerto with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and provides, at the same time, a reassessment of the work. “Dvořák’s Piano Concerto has always been a wallflower, passed over as high on difficulty and low on charm and brilliance. In Stephen Hough it may have found its ideal champion. He brought disciplined tempos that clarified and strengthened the sense of form, architectural balance and gravitas, and the brilliant precision of his playing brought vividness and excitement to passages in the outer movements that otherwise can come across as somewhat formulaic note-spinning. Dvořák’s textures are original, avoiding many of the new pianistic discoveries of the virtuoso composers like Liszt, yet, when realised with the scrupulous fidelity Hough managed, have their own appeal.” Praise for Mr. Hough’s playing of the concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with Andris Nelsons in The Guardian was succinct and unequivocal: “It was dazzling.”
Mr. Hough’s performance of the Schumann concerto, also with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, from which this recording is drawn, proves as demonstrably revelatory as the recording’s companion work, as The Guardian reports: “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.”
About Stephen Hough
Stephen Hough, regarded as a renaissance man of his time, has released more than 50 recordings on the Hyperion label with works by more than 100 composers, including his own. He has won four Grammy nominations and eight Gramophone awards, including two ‘Record of the Year’ awards—one for concertos by Scharwenka and Sauer, and the other for the complete works for piano and orchestra by Saint-Saëns, which was also given the Gramophone ‘Gold Disc’ Award after being voted by readers of The Times as the finest classical recording of the last 30 years. His recording of the complete Chopin Waltzes received the Diapason d’Or de l’Année—France’s highest recording award—and his live recording of the Rachmaninoff piano concertos became the fastest-selling record in Hyperion’s history, while his recording of the Hummel concertos remains Chandos’ best-selling disc to date. Mr. Hough’s upcoming engagements in the U.S. during the 2015-16 season include return appearances with the Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and San Francisco symphonies. Another highlight of the season is a week-long residency in the New York area in March 2016 during which he’ll perform as a recitalist, orchestral soloist, chamber musician, and composer. As part of this residency, Mr. Hough will play Schumann’s Piano Concerto with the New Jersey Symphony and give two performances at the 92nd Street Y: a solo recital that features the New York premiere of his Sonata III (Trinitas), and a chamber music performance with cellist Stephen Isserlis that features his Sonata for Cello and Piano, Left Hand, “Les Adieux,” a piece that can be heard on Mr. Hough’s recent Hyperion recording with Mr. Isserlis that also includes cello sonatas by Mendelssohn and Grieg. To learn more about Mr. Hough, please visit his website (http://www.stephenhough.com), his blog for The Telegraph, his Facebook fan page (facebook.com/houghhough), or follow him on Twitter (@houghhough).
About Andris Nelsons
In 2014, Andris Nelsons became music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and in 2017-18, he takes up the post of Gewandhauskapellmeister of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. With both appointments, and in leading a pioneering alliance between these two esteemed institutions, Andris Nelsons assumes a position as one of the most renowned and innovative of today’s conductors. He gave his debut performance with the Gewandhausorchester with works by Richard Strauss, Beethoven and Sibelius in 2011, and in the same year he made his Boston Symphony Orchestra debut, conducting Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 at Carnegie Hall. In 2012, Mr. Nelsons made his debut at Tanglewood, which was followed by his Boston Symphony Hall debut in 2013. In 2015, the BSO with Mr. Nelsons embarked on their first European summer festival tour, with performances in London, Salzburg, Grafenegg, Lucerne, Milan, Paris, Cologne, and Berlin, to critical acclaim. Mr. Nelsons continues his collaborations with the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw, and Philharmonia Orchestra. He also appears as a regular guest conductor at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Metropolitan Opera. Praised for his profound interpretations of a wide repertoire, commitment to new works, and transformative music-making with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Nelsons received the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award as conductor in 2015. He was music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra from 2008 to 2015, prior to which he served as principal conductor of the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie in Herford, Germany, from 2006 to 2009, and as music director of the Latvian National Opera, 2003-2007.
STEPHEN HOUGH, PIANO
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Andris Nelsons, conductor
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
Piano Concerto in G minor, Op. 33 [40’49]
1. Allegro agitato [20’13]
2. Andante sostenuto [ 8’49]
3. Allegro con fuoco [11’47]
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 [32’21]
4. Allegro affetuoso [15’42]
5. Intermezzo: Andantino grazioso [ 5’27]
6. Allegro vivace [11’12]