Pianist Stephen Hough juxtaposes the contrasting musical languages of two Slavic composers in a new recording titled Scriabin ▪ Janáček: Sonatas & Poems to be released by Hyperion Records in the U.S. on Friday, November 13.
The album alternates the sonatas and poems of Scriabin and Janáček in a way that highlights the individual style of each, resulting in a conversation between two composers whose only musical similarity is the shared title of their works.
“I love the contrast between their styles, and I find that playing these pieces next to each other highlights the beauty of each,” Mr. Hough says. “Uninterrupted, Scriabin can become clawing, too much Janáček can become exhausting; but alternating them creates a wonderful patchwork of contrasting voices so different but equally compelling, equally intense.”
Scriabin ▪ Janáček: Sonatas & Poems features works Mr. Hough has programmed in recital, including Scriabin’s Piano Sonata No. 5, a performance of which The New York Times called “breathtaking,” noting that his playing “…captured all of the music’s demonic exuberance.”
Mr. Hough begins and ends the recording with Scriabin sonatas, and the Janáček works that are programmed throughout contribute to the discourse that explores the linear differences between the composers. The works include Scriabin’s Piano Sonata No. 5, Janáček’s On the overgrown path; Scriabin’s Poème in F sharp major and Vers la flame: poème; Janáček’s Piano Sonata ‘1.X.1905, From the street’; and Scriabin’s Piano Sonata No. 4 in F sharp major.
The musical differences between the two composers on the recording and allow the listener to digest and internalize their contrasting compositional styles.
“Janáček characteristically uses small cells that repeat, often obsessively, within a harmonic language which is always unsettled and uncomfortable,” said Mr. Hough. “Scriabin’s long, sensual lines float along and sink inside a hot, perfumed bath of harmony—comfort to excess. Janáček the vertical; Scriabin the horizontal.”
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 and Houston 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).
Stephen Hough, Piano CDA6785
Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915)
Piano Sonata No. 5 Op.53 (1907) [12’25]
1. Allegro. Impetuoso. Con stravganza—Languido—Presto con allegrezza
Leoš Janáček (1854-1928)
On the overgrown path Po zarostlém chodníčku Book I (1900-11) [31’35]
2. Our evenings Naše večery [3’49]
3. A blown-away leaf Lístek odvanutý [3’17]
4. Come with us! Pojďte namí [1’08]
5. The Frýdek Madonna Frýdecká Panna Maria [3’27]
6. They chattered like swallows Štěbetaly jak laštovičky [2’23]
7. Words fail! Nelze domluvit! [2’09]
8. Good night! Dobrou noc! [3’04]
9. Unutterable anguish Tak neskonale úzko [5’02]
10. In tears V pláči [3’29]
11. The barn owl has not flown away! Sýček neodletěl! [3’48]
12. Poème in F sharp major Op. 32 No. 1 (1903) Andante cantabile [3’03]
13. Vers la flame: poème Op. 72 (1914) Allegro moderato [5’49]
Piano Sonata ‘1.X.1905, From the street’ (1905-6) [12’14]
14. Presentiment Předtucha Con moto [4’55]
15. Death Smrt Adagio [7’19]
Piano Sonata No. 4 in F sharp major Op. 30 (1903) [7’32]
16. Andante [2’35]
17. Prestissimo volando [4’57]
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