Chopin Music Forum Index Chopin Music Forum
Community of Classical Music Lovers
 
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 

Stephen Hough

 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Chopin Music Forum Index -> Recordings and Performers
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Goldberg
Incorrigible Failure



Age: 17
Joined: 26 Aug 2004
Posts: 815
Location: Cygnus X-1

PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2005 6:07 am    Post subject: Stephen Hough Reply with quote

I really, really, really hate to ruin my reputation like this, but for once I am not going to post a long concert review? Why?! I'll tell you why! First of all, I feel a little ill, and have all night, and had a slight headache/earache, plus felt a little drowsy so I had difficulty concentrating 100% on the music. That's not to say I dozed off every now and then, but I admit there were a few parts that went in one ear and out the other...shamefully, I might add, because I'm normally of a much better attention span. Furthermore, and perhaps more significant, is that I was only familiar with one---out of three---pieces played and as such can not really offer good criticisms on the others.

That piece would be Saint-Saens' 5th piano concert, "Egyptian".

But I'll get to that in a second. What a night! My birthday (26th of this month) is coming up and I've long had this concert in my eye, importuning my dad to take me for several months now. In retrospect, perhaps I was wrong to be SO excited about it, but really, in Houston it's very difficult to get a really GOOD concert in with everything you like, and besides, I needed something to wash out of my mind the image of Lang Lang's onstage miscarriage which I so unfortunately witnessed in October. All said and done, this is a reasonable program, and really I was most excited, as you can imagine, about seeing Stephen Hough perform the Saint-Saens. The program was, then:

Ravel: Mother Goose Suite
Saint-Saens: Piano Concerto no. 5
*INT*
Franck: Symphony no. 9 in D minor

As it so happens, my father and I went out to a particular Chinese restaraunt, which, incidentally, was the same one we went to before the Lang Lang recital...it was almost as though we were trying to repeat history to create for ourselves an alternative reality of good instead of malady...(sorry, I'm beginning to endlessly bash Lang Lang, which is exactly what these forums need less of...besides, I still remain optimistic for him). After a pleasant conversation and excellent meal, we headed over to Jones Hall where my dad unveiled the birthday surprise: balcony box seating! It was actually pretty cool, and he admitted that he'd never sat in one of the boxes before; both of us remained somewhat skeptical as to whether or not the sound would actually be better, but we were surprised in our favour to discover that the acoustics were, from comparison to our many prior experiences, somewhat clearer and of a broader reception than from other seats...perhaps a minute, subtle difference, but it made all the difference in the piano concerto, during which the piano never fell out of an audible level no matter what the dynamics.

Well, here comes the short part. Ordinarily I'd review each piece in great depth but I will try and do so in a much more concise form than usual. Just don't expect this to become a habit! I take pride in boring you all to tears after endless ramblings and stupid points about random subjects!!

If the Franck Symphony was the highlight of the performance, Ravel's Mother Goose Suite was surely the lowlight. I don't know how it is actually supposed to sound, but the conductor--that is, Louis Langree--irritated me somewhat by eschewing any sort of tempo rubato in all movements. Instead he seemed to push it forward, avoiding what I would call impressionism.......but, then again, perhaps I was just looking for the wrong things, not being too keen on Ravel's music. Otherwise, the performance seemed flat, harmonically dull at times, and seemingly unimaginative. I'm not an Impressionist by any means, and have yet to develop a clear understanding of/appreciation for Ravel's music, so...don't bite me. I wasn't very interested, but heard it through. The ending movement was pretty cool, I thought (The Enchanted Garden).

Up comes the Saint-Saens, and my Lord, Stephen Hough actually looks like...Stephen Hough! It was perhaps the first concert I've been to in which the soloist actually LOOKS like he does in the program and all of the other pictures out there. For the most dramatic example of the contrary, let us all recall my--and SMD's, later--review of Pogorelich's concert, in which we both expressed shock and, indeed, concern for our sanity, of seeing Ivo step out with a bald head. After that, I have to say there are few things that could have shocked me, and I was thoroughly prepared to see Mr. Hough whisked through the doors sporting an orange mohawk; however, the surprise was inescapable, and my father and I exchanged our looks of amazement when out came the same man we saw in the program! Something must be up...

But, alas, no. Now on to the music. In general, I'd say that Hough's pianism is VERY much suited for Saint-Saens' music. He definitely has the technique, and the *correct* technique..that is, he plays mostly from the fingers and forearms, and avoids using too much shoulder and long arm weight, which from my amateur observations gives the piano a light, rapid tone which IS the sound for Saint-Saens.

He took the first movement very brisk, and almost too fast for my liking; he played it at about the tempo I'd play the last movement, and indeed there was hardly a difference in the first movement and last movement. At times, his speed (1st movement) definitely took away from the musicality, and I've often heard him criticised for taking everything too technically and never exploring a piece's true depths; indeed, I got the impression that his playing was--if you'll excuse me, Max--very "English" in a stereotypical kind of way; that is, he played very "literally" to the text and hardly gave the music room to breath. That said, I go back to my original sentence and say that his sense of the music seems very atuned to Saint-Saens in general, which has never struck me as particularly profound.

However, he nevertheless gave an extraordinarily satisfying sense of darma in, well, the dramatic parts, and his octaves were ALWAYS thrilling, Saint-Saens being very fond of the jumping octaves and chords. He used pedal a little too much, which was especially disappointing during that awesome repeated-note section (kind of like Islamey now that I think about it), which in my mind should be played senza pedal entirely. On that note, the 2nd movement was very wicked, as it always is, and Hough appeared more comfortable and "into" the music than he was in the first movement. By the 3rd movement, he was well in the groove and proved to be electrifying in his reading of the piece...again, it would be difficult for me to truly praise his musicality after a performance of what is arguably a pure showpiece, but at least I'm happy to say his showiness packed a punch, and the finale was enormous. Earlier, I had seen his CDs set up, and contemplated getting his Brahms disc, but opted not to until after I heard the performance...by the end of the night, I was well convinced that he's not the pianist for Brahms. Don't take that negatively, though. I think Hough has a place at Hyperion, and what I admire more than anything is his broadening of the repertoire, most obviously in his Sharwenka and Sauer concerti recordings. In this respect, and with consideration of his technique, I might be tempted to call him "The English Hamelin" or "Little Hamelin" or something, but I don't really think he's THAT good. I have to say I respect his playing, but he'd never really turn into a "role model" for me, I think.

Except for that he's really, extremely, exceedingly nice. Of course I went out and got my first place in line, which is relatively customary for my father and I, and I had my Sharwenka CD ready for him to sign. But it took us about 3 minutes of talking (and the two guards standing by trying to wave me off) for him to sign it! First I complimented him, then made a total ass of myself by asking him whether or not he knew the 3rd concerto, which I explained is my favourite one. It was extremely stupid of me to do so, however, because right next to me was a display of his CDs, which mostly comprised his Hyperion collection of ALL the SS concerti and piano/orchestra pieces...my GOD! How dumb of me! I had even seen them on the way in, so I was well aware that he'd played them all...and here I am, asking the bloke if he "knows the third". Pssssh...this is the sort of thing I'll never let myself live down...

"Why, yes, I do," he said in his humble, polite, and warm manner, "in fact, I even recorded them on all Hyperion...actually, I think the CD's right there." *he points, and I follow his finger, knowing my mistake* "Er...aha, why so it is!"

By this point, an elderly and enthusiastic man behind me had started talking to Mr. Hough about the SS concerti in general, and although I didn't particularly mind at first, he started getting on my nerves as he continued the conversation onto other matters, asking him about the encore (I watched him play the encore--a Paderewski nocturne, not very interesting--on the television while waiting) and what have you. He was amazed when Mr. Hough told me that the 3rd was also his favourite SSC, and submitted that the 5th was much more exciting...but I imagine he probably hadn't really heard the 3rd (in fact, I was a little confused but I think he may have heard "1st" instead of "3rd" by mistake, in which case I would agree with him). Well, the old man stopped yakking and Mr. Hough kindly turned his attention back to me and asked, "are you a pianist, then?" "Oh..yeah, well, I try....say, I'm curious as to how far you can stretch?" (of ALL the questions in the world, I cunningly unveil this one) "Well, let me see...usually I can do an octave, then two, with only a slight trouble, but when I have to I can grab an 11th. How about you?" "As it so happens, I myself have trouble reaching just an octave! I'll confess that I'm working on Liszt's 6th Rhapsody and am having quite a lot of trouble with the octaves as it is." And then, perhaps the kindest words ever spoken to me, "Well, you know, lots of people have trouble with that rhapsody!!" *we both chuckle, I smile appreciatingly, and the "bouncer"--a really tall, heavyweight black man--tells me its time to go and let the next person have a chat...I just take a moment and have Mr. Hough sign my CD, and then turn to leave* "I hope to hear you some day!" He called out after me.

Perhaps they were seasoned replies to people like me that he's used to meeting, but his tone of voice was so genuine and "pure" in a sense, well, he just made me feel good inside just being around him. He had a really warm sense about him, in other words, and his charm and upbeat disposition seemed irresistable. Even his "thank you very much!" at my compliment was so filled with selflessness and warmth, I was almost taken aback! An extremely well-humoured fellow, and I would have loved to talked to him after the 2nd half, but apparently he'd left by then.

Actually, he DID stay in for the Franck symphony, which, once again, surprised me (I'm using the word "surprised" waaay too much, heh, but I'm tired and somewhat ill, so, forgive me); it was the first time I'd seen a performer do so! He slipped in through the side doors on the lower level and took a seat quietly on the far left side of the house, generously humouring the audience members around him, who shook his hand and said a few words, and then sat straight upright and, from my three or four glances in his direction, hardly moved at all during the symphony. Then, as soon as it finished, I noticed a quick motion in that general area and saw him get up and leave very quickly, probably to get back to the green room and see a few friends or something.

If his playing isn't entirely suitable to my tastes (though, I haven't heard him play that much), at least I can say I truly admire his personality. If only there were more people like that! If only I were like that! heh

Ok, well, blah blah, the Franck symphony was excellent, in contrast to the Ravel, and I must say I'm beginning to become quite a Franck fan. I shall have to investigate his symphonies further. I do wish that he could stay moody for longer, however, as I would have liked a return to D minor for the last movement instead of bringing out the happy stuff early on. The writing seemed very similar to Liszt, Schumann, and indeed Franck, who, perhaps in my imagination, quotes his own Symphonic Variations in the 2nd movement a few times, namely in the harp's introduction.

At any rate, the work was downright riveting in spots, full of Romantic dramatism and flashy melodies. Thoroughly enjoyable, and a good way to end the night.

More than satisfied, my dad and I then drove home, had a spirited conversation, and here I am now, relating to you my most recent concert experience!


...*grumbling* no matter how hard I try, it doesn't seem possible for me to actually write a short review, like I say I'm going to.....oh well.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message MSN Messenger
Max
Registered User



Age: 17
Joined: 18 Sep 2004
Posts: 463

PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2005 8:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

lol

That was a pretty long short review

Hough is a great pianist, I'm actually really jealous. *turns green*
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Brewtality
Registered User



Age: 19
Joined: 26 Aug 2004
Posts: 271
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2005 8:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

thanks for that Goldberg! I for one thoroughly enjoy reading your concert reviews Wink
I didn't get to see Hough when he came to Australia. He played in small country towns but not mine (which i took as another case of Canberra-bashing) Neutral
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
pianoplayer
Registered User



Age: 14
Joined: 12 Dec 2004
Posts: 31
Location: Singapore

PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2005 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He's coming here in Singapore to perform the Paganini Rhapsody. I'm gonna buy the tickets soon!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Goldberg
Incorrigible Failure



Age: 17
Joined: 26 Aug 2004
Posts: 815
Location: Cygnus X-1

PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2005 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, I'll just add that I'd very much like to see Hough in a solo recital. I'm kind of frustrated now, because I really can't give much of an accurate account of his playing, since all I've heard is the Saint-Saens, in which the musical decisions are as much the conductor's as they are the pianist's (or so I should think, anyway...). For that Lang Lang recital, for instance, I had a much better taste of the individual performer.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message MSN Messenger
aout4
miss small hands rachopininoff lover




Joined: 26 Aug 2004
Posts: 257
Location: besides the piano

PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2005 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pianoplayer wrote:
He's coming here in Singapore to perform the Paganini Rhapsody. I'm gonna buy the tickets soon!


hey, yeah!! I bought mine liao....
I'm looking forward to it too...

Great review by Goldberg, wish I could write something after the concert too Smile
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Goldberg
Incorrigible Failure



Age: 17
Joined: 26 Aug 2004
Posts: 815
Location: Cygnus X-1

PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2005 10:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nah, this really is my worse review ever, filled with typographical errors and paltry remarks.

At any rate, I'm preparing to contradict myself: I listened to my old Collard recording of the SS concerti, which I haven't heard for many months, with Hough's performance fresh in my mind...and I have to say right out that Hough was right all along! Collard's recording, which I had trusted as "standard, and then some" turned out to be less of what I remembered it, and it didn't take long for me to realise that Hough's tempi, pedalling, and overall feeling in general were actually much more defined and, if nothing else, more interesting and exciting.

My review above sounds somewhat negative, but let me assure you it isn't. It's just my style of writing. Besides, in a critique, I sometimes "force" myself to find inaccuracies or disappointments in a performance, in hopes to at least draw the line between what's good and what's bad. This is probably a bad way to write reviews (especially if one focuses more on the bad), but just keep in mind the proporitions: that is, if I say I didn't like something in Hough's concert, it's because I felt really hard pressed to criticise his sheer mastery of his instrument and artistry. It is a completely different story, I suppose, in my last review of "Fred".

Well, I dunno what I'm trying to say. Point is, I'm not really happy with my review overall.....but, yeah, I'll keep it up. I'll probably order a solo disc of Hough's (and probably the SS concerti, since I'd love to hear his 3rd) to get a more thorough taste of his work.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message MSN Messenger
Max
Registered User



Age: 17
Joined: 18 Sep 2004
Posts: 463

PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 9:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Get his "Liszt Works" one, he also recorded some excellent obscure works (I think American composers...?)
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Brewtality
Registered User



Age: 19
Joined: 26 Aug 2004
Posts: 271
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 9:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a cd of Liszt polonaises, ballades and the B minor Sonata from Hough. It pretty good. If i had the money i'd buy his rach concerti.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Max
Registered User



Age: 17
Joined: 18 Sep 2004
Posts: 463

PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Rach Concerti are great also (Goldberg did ask for solo stuff) he does a fantastic job with #1 and #3.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Goldberg
Incorrigible Failure



Age: 17
Joined: 26 Aug 2004
Posts: 815
Location: Cygnus X-1

PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 3:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I found a great-looking CD called something like "The Piano Album"...it has cool pieces on it, like things by Donhanyi, Godowsky, and maybe Busoni (amongst others). Has anyone heard it? of course, I'm sure it's wonderful.

And, yeah, it's really just a matter of getting money together, heh. I've had an subscription form on my computer for the Cziffra society since January, and I still haven't gotten myself to spend the $40!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message MSN Messenger
Max
Registered User



Age: 17
Joined: 18 Sep 2004
Posts: 463

PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2005 4:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thats the CD I got a while ago too, its brilliant.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
pianoplayer
Registered User



Age: 14
Joined: 12 Dec 2004
Posts: 31
Location: Singapore

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2005 11:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Finally bought my tickets. Yay!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Chopin Music Forum Index -> Recordings and Performers All times are GMT
Page 1 of 1

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group