Lancashire Times
Weekend Edition
Andrew Palmer
Group Editor
9:55 AM 5th September 2021

Classical CD Review: Schumann: Arabeske, Kreislerina & Fantasie Stephen Hough

Schumann: Arabeske in C major Op18, Kreislerina Op 16 & Fantasie in C major Op 17.
Pianist: Stephen Hough

Hyperion CDA68363 or downloadable

4 Stars
This all Schumann piano recital begins with the enchanting Arabeske in C major. The pianist is guided by nothing more than a single marking of ’Ped’ at the start, the odd articulation and dynamic mark, plus ‘leicht und zart’ (Light and tender) but that’s all that is needed for Stephen Hough as he beautifully and elegantly interprets the work captivating the listener then fading away so delicately in the closing bars.

However, it doesn’t stop there, Hough follows with Kreisleriana and you can feel Schumann’s emotions coming through as Hough deftly changes tempi and mood; one feels you are in the room, sensing his hands moving over the keyboard as he draws you in to the tender and reflective melodies.

The title recalls Schumann’s affinity with the character of Johannes Kreisler, a fictional musician who appears in the writings of Hoffmann. Each of the numbers divides into several contrasting sections, recalling the imaginary musician's wild mood swings as well as Schumann’s own alter egos, Florestan and Eusebis.

The piece calls for quick change of tempi and moods and Hough demonstrates this wonderfully with his touch especially at the end of No 5 sehr lebhaft (very lively) where his rhythmic playing subsides quickly and we are taken into No 6 sehr langsam (very slow) drawing the listener into the piece, suddenly to be woken from slumber with sehr rasch (very quickly). As he comes to the conclusion we get another Schumann fading close delicately accomplished. Hough executes the contrasts and extremes this piece demands perfectly.

The recital ends in the same key as the Arabeske. The 3 movement Fantasie in C major rounds of this fine CD. The first movement ‘to be performed completely with fantasy and passion; the second ‘moderate but with energy’ and the third ‘solemn and slow to be played quietly throughout.

All three movements are played with Hough’s artistry, sensitivity and ability not to lose the detail. He creates the magic and casts a spell only releasing us seconds after the final quiet three chords are played.

These three marvellous compositions interpreted with Hough’s mastery and Hyperion’s superb recording quality make this a welcome addition to the catalogue.