New York, New York (December 5, 2019) — Pianist Stephen Hough’s album Brahms: The Final Piano Pieces explores the composer’s last four sets of piano miniatures—the Fantasias, Op. 116; Intermezzos, Op. 117; and Clavierstücke, Op. 118 & 119.
The recording, Mr. Hough’s sixth all-Brahms album, is released digitally and on disc by Hyperion Records on Friday, January 3. Digital pre-orders are currently available from Amazon and Apple Music / iTunes.
Brahms wrote all 20 of the piano miniatures on this album in consecutive summers at the Austrian resort of Bad Ischl—Op. 116 & 117 in 1892, Op. 118 & 119 in 1893. They are characterized by an introspective quality that pervades Brahms’s late music and grew out of the composer’s belief that “his life’s work [was] more or less over.”* He had even drafted his will at Ischl the summer prior to embarking on these works.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Hough said:
“Brahms had started out as one of the most open and honest of composers—I think of him visiting [Robert] Schumann and bounding up the stairs three at a time, then bursting into the room. But after Schumann’s death he became closed-in emotionally, refining his feelings into more intellectual pursuits. By the end of his life you get a window into all the regret. We hear the work of an old person looking back at what might have been. I find it incredibly touching.”
Mr. Hough has recorded more than 60 albums for Hyperion Records, including two sets of Brahms’s piano concertos—with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Mozarteumorchester Salzburg, respectively. He also writes about the two concertos in an essay titled “Brahms First or Second?” that appears in his new book, Rough Ideas: Reflections on Music and More, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the U.S. on February 4.
Additional recordings for Hyperion include an all-Brahms album comprising Piano Sonata No. 3 and the Four Ballades, Op. 10, and recordings of Brahms’s chamber music with cellist Steven Isserlis, violinist Robert Mann, and the Takács Quartet. Later this season, in May 2020, the label releases Mr. Hough’s two-disc cycle of the complete Beethoven piano concertos with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Hannu Lintu, in celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday.
Among Mr. Hough’s 2019–20 performances are solo recitals and concerts with orchestra throughout North America. His current recital program, which includes his own Sonata No. 4 (“vida breve”), is performed in Cincinnati, Fort Worth, Katonah (at Caramoor), New Orleans, and Santa Barbara, among other cities, and he appears as a concerto soloist with the Dallas, Nashville, National, and Toronto Symphonies. He also performs overseas this season with orchestras in Australia, China, Iceland, Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Singapore, Slovakia, Sweden, and the U.K., and in recital in Germany, Taiwan, and the U.K., including in London, Manchester, and Oxford. He appears in chamber concerts featuring his compositions in Oxford, Milan, and London, among other cities, with such leading artists as violinist Renaud Capuçon and cellist Steven Isserlis.
About Stephen Hough
Stephen Hough is regarded as a Renaissance man of his time. Over the course of his career, he has not only secured a reputation as an insightful pianist, but also as a writer and composer. In 2001, he was the first classical performing artist to receive a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and, in 2013, he was named a Commander of the British Empire. He has appeared with most of the major American and European orchestras and plays recitals regularly in major halls and concert series around the world. His recordings have garnered international prizes including the Deutscher Schallplattenpreis, Diapason d’Or, Monde de la Musique, several Grammy nominations, and eight Gramophone Magazine Awards including the 1996 and 2003 “Record of the Year” Awards and the 2008 “Gold Disc” Award. Mr. Hough has composed music for orchestra, choir, chamber ensemble, and solo piano, and his compositions are published by Josef Weinberger, Ltd. He is also an avid painter whose work has been exhibited at the Broadbent Gallery in London.
A noted writer, Mr. Hough has contributed articles to The New York Times, The Guardian, The Times (U.K.), Evening Standard, The Tablet, Gramophone, and BBC Music Magazine. For seven years, until 2016, he wrote more than six hundred articles for his blog on The Telegraph, which became one of the most popular and influential forums for cultural discussion. Mr. Hough resides in London and is a visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London and The Juilliard School in New York. He holds the International Chair of Piano Studies at his alma mater, the Royal Northern College in Manchester, and he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Liverpool in 2011.
Stephen Hough – Brahms: The Final Piano Pieces
Hyperion Records (CDA68116)
Johannes Brahms (1833–97)
Fantasias Op. 116 [20’47]
1. No 1 in D minor: Capriccio [2’04]
2. No 2 in A minor: Intermezzo [3’28]
3. No 3 in G minor: Capriccio [3’05]
4. No 4 in E major: Intermezzo [4’12]
5. No 5 in E minor: Intermezzo [2’55]
6. No 6 in E major: Intermezzo [2’46]
7. No 7 in D minor: Capriccio [2’17]
Intermezzos Op. 117 [13’39]
8. No 1 in E flat major: Andante moderato [4’20]
9. No 2 in B flat minor: Andante non troppo e con molto espressione [3’59]
10. No 3 in C sharp minor: Andante con moto [5’20]
Clavierstücke Op. 118 [20’43]
11. No 1 in A minor: Intermezzo [2’00]
12. No 2 in A major: Intermezzo [5’20]
13. No 3 in G minor: Ballade [3’22]
14. No 4 in F minor: Intermezzo [2’29]
15. No 5 in F major: Romance [3’16]
16. No 6 in E flat minor: Intermezzo [4’16]
Clavierstücke Op. 119 [13’50]
17. No 1 in B minor: Intermezzo [3’15]
18. No 2 in E minor: Intermezzo [4’15]
19. No 3 in C major: Intermezzo [1’38]
20. No 4 in E flat major: Rhapsodie [4’42]
Total duration: 68 minutes 59 seconds