Towards the psychoanalysis of piano morsels

Towards the psychoanalysis of piano morsels


norman lebrecht

May 25, 2018

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

In the hands of anyone other than Stephen Hough, this album would be either a horrible indulgence or a public act of psychoanalysis. Hough is far too fastidious a pianist to be suspected of such temptations. What we have here are morsels by composers great and (mostly) small, evoking a trance-like state between sleep and wakefulness.

I’m not sure about Hough’s opening setting ….

Read on here.




  • Myrtar says:

    Is he physically able to smile? What a frown …

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Stephen is one of the most daring, versatile and imaginative pianists. I have always admired, respected and loved everything he does – as far back as our friendship when it started at The Juilliard School. He breathes outside of the box, and I hope he will continue to give the world his genius for many years!

    • Been Here Before says:

      Jeffrey, I agree with every word that you said and am deeply envious of your privilege of being a friend with such a great artist!

      I heard Stephen Hough in May 2015 on the occasion of his Boston debut (!!!) at the New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall. The Debussy’s Children’s Corner was delicate and joyous, but the Chopin’s Ballades that he played in the second part of the program left me in awe. I can still recall the coda of the Ballade No. 1 – it was very fast, but so precise that I could hear every note.

      I dare to say that this was the best recital I heard that year, and I have heard several marquee names, including Pollini and Buchbinder.

    • Sue says:

      Totally agree, though I don’t know him personally. He’s a great musician and I thoroughly admire his work. And for the person commenting on the grim look; there’s nothing funny about art music! Thank goodness.

      • john albert wills says:

        I was present at the Sydney Recital Centre when he played the Listz sonata.
        I’m still waiting for him to record it. Only Gilels equalled it.

    • Nick2 says:

      I could not agree more with Jeffrey Biegel. I have had the pleasure of knowing and hearing Stephen Hough perform for far more years than I care to remember. He is an amazing pianist whose interpretations are always thoughtful, fresh and wonderfully alive. The comments above by Myrtar and Bruce above are just plain idiotic and senseless!

  • David Taylor says:

    Stephen . . . . clearly a great pianist!!!

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    Why must critics always act like gatekeepers, usually to discourage and keep people out? That is what kills music. Critics are truly useless and mostly unqualified. Alex Ross, for example, a smooth writer, but an unskilled non-musician, when you can read between the lines. Since you can hardly find a skilled musician who is also a skilled writer, give it up. We don’t need them. Readers don’t need to be told what to like and what not to like.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Music criticism is not only about ‘taste instruction’. It is about information, description, interpretation, and above all: giving music a place in the media so that people know it is there and that it is important. Its abstract nature makes it for many people difficult to ‘see’. The current populist view that classical music is a mere entertainment toy of old elites, and not a flagship of Western civilization (which it always has been), has the unfortunate effect – in Europe via democratic processes, in the USA via media discouragement – that its funding shrinks and that it eventually may be driven to extinction.

    • Hilary says:

      I beg to differ here.
      The Penguin Record Guide proved to be an important segment of my education but I also had the presence of mind to veer towards what the writers deemed to be very poor/controversial (ie. the single , or no star reviews for Alexis Weissenberg or Glenn Gould)

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Er…if it wasn’t for music critics I would never buy any music and I would never have started to go to concerts. Just because you know what you like doesn’t mean that other people don’t appreciate some help and advice from an informed listener. (And, in any case, I don’t have time to wade through all the recordings of a piece of work to work out what is good; I like to have the critics whittle it down to something manageable for me).

  • Phillippa Ballard says:

    What is the painting on the album cover ? Anbody know ?

  • Charles Clark-Maxwell says:

    Hieronymus Bosch surely ?