This attractively priced double set is one of Stephen Hough's most important recordings. 'Britain's greatest living pianist'
(The Mail on Sunday) is joined by Mozarteumorchester Salzburg and international conductor Mark Wigglesworth in their Hyperion debut for Brahms's Piano Concertos. These works are among the greatest in the genre, and shore up Brahms's reputation as both a symphonist and a piano composer. Separated by twenty-two years and widely differing in their reception (the first was scorned and the second a huge success), they are monumental in scale, impassioned and truly romantic, forward-looking in form and requiring both great virtuosity and intimacy from the pianist. Stephen Hough has performed them in concert for many years to ecstatic acclaim: this new recording is surely one of his most desirable offerings.
There is plenty to enjoy. --Gramophone, Jan'14
Stephen Hough has proved himself a superb Brahms player in various discs of the solo piano music and this very satisfying double album of the two concertos confirms and augments his reputation. Performance ***** Recording ***** --BBC Music magazine, Feb'14
Hyperion's sound here is brilliantly immediate, and the gruff tutti which opens Brahms's D minor concerto is startling. Such an unusual start for a concerto the music brooding, seething with fury. You wonder if the pianist will get a look in. Mark Wigglesworth's Mozarteumorchester Salzburg produce a lean, wiry sound far less refulgent than we're used to. And it works, making Stephen Hough's first entry all the more unexpected the first solo not a million miles from genteel salon music. Hough can be a mercurial pianist, able to project with the lightest of touches, but Brahms's more daunting writing carries satisfying weight here. Wigglesworth and Hough manage to avoid any sense of stodginess - the 6/4 metre flows very nicely indeed, the waltz rhythms offering a welcome touch of light relief. Hough makes Brahms's Adagio sing with unforced eloquence, but the best thing here is the final Rondo. The coda's shift to D major is one of music's most uplifting moments, and it's marvellous in these hands, Hough's bass lines ringing out with percussive brilliance. Brahms's Concerto no 2, though a more mature, confident work, just doesn't seem as much fun the Allegro non troppo's 4/4 plod a little too stately and self-satisfied. Brahms joked that the movement was "harmless", providing vivid contrast in the form of a dark, minor-key scherzo. Hough catches the lilt as well as the melancholy. Marcus Pouget's cello solo in the extended Andante offers additional pleasures, but not even Hough's genius can prevent the Allegro grazioso from sounding slightly inconsequential an oddly unsatisfying conclusion to such a weighty piece. I'm nitpicking these are very good performances, well-recorded and reasonably priced. Good notes, too. --ArtsDesk, Feb'14