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on 9 September 2012
Stephen Hough's French Album is a great collection that follows the mix-and-match model of a number of earlier releases, such as the Spanish Album. We get a mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar - from Debussy's Clair de Lune and Ravel's Alborada del Gracioso to Faure, Poulenc, Alkan, Hough's own transcriptions of pieces by Delibes and Massenet, Cortot transcriptions, a Liszt opera paraphrase and plenty of other delectable pieces. Hough's playing is impressive, as we have come to expect, not least in the amazing sense of light and shade he finds in Ravel's Alborada del Gracioso. The Faure pieces are a model of expression and restraint, and the Massenet/Hough features some of the most beautifully delicate piano playing you're ever likely to encounter. Hough is a true master of colour, and his beautifully shaded and graded dynamics are to die for.

The main draw of the album is the brilliant programming - nobody is better than Hough at bringing together various pieces around a theme and moulding them into a cogent album that's a delight from beginning to end. Compared to the earlier Spanish Album, this collection has arguably a little less variety - despite the occasional brilliant showpiece, it is very much dominated by a nocturnal mood, but in Hough's hands it makes for great listening any time. Another success by one of the most interesting pianists of our times.
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on 21 December 2012
This disc contains some very attractive pieces and some which are perhaps too subtle for me - I don't find that they hold the attention as such, but the playing is lovely and the selection a nice introduction to some composers to whom I would not otherwise give shelf-space
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on 17 September 2012
Stephen's Hough French Album is anything but a national stereotype. There are welcome hints of long evenings, glasses of wine and laissez faire, but Hough regularly gives us a dose of acid and the glimmer of steel. From the swaggering but muscular Bach arrangements by Alfred Cortot to Liszt's Réminiscences de La juive, this is a dazzling showcase of pianism, sans frontières.

Cortot was Swiss, Liszt was a Hungarian, the cover image on the CD is an English painting of a Saxon retreat and Hough is British born. Yet despite the geographic plurality of this 'French' album, the whole thing is united by a notably Gallic sense of class and swagger. Hough's Bach has breathless lines and the fresh attack of improvisation. More surprising is the fluid transition into a stream of works by Fauré. Sensual, warm, Hough has programmed a beautiful sequence of keys leading to ever more capricious harmonic terrain. Ravel's Alborada del gracioso finally cuts through, adding a dash of lemon juice.

After such flashy precision, Hough gives a caring touch to miniatures by Massenet, Chabrier and Poulenc. Water-droplet placement of bass notes, an erotic blooms in the melody line and seamless cantabile playing make for a potent heart to the disc. Alkan's La chanson de la folle au bord de la mer then undercuts their warmth with an eerie frisson.

Hough's own arrangement of the 'Pizzicati' from Delibes' Sylvia provides a deft balance of the racy and the refined, before Liszt's muscular 'Fantasie brillante' takes over. Hough describes the disc as 'a sort of musical dessert trolley'. There's enough sugar to sate the sweetest tooth, but a lot more besides.
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on 15 June 2016
Hough as a pianist can do no wrong, so far as I'm concerned. This thoughtful and varied selection shows his astonishing keyboard skills off to brilliant advantage: even the slighter pieces (and there are several such) are handled with such consummate delicacy that they shine as brightly as the more ambitious compositions.
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on 2 January 2013
Stephen Hough is brilliant and this album is excellent. Range of music, some perhaps unusual in their piano arrangements but the exciting and different experience one has come to expect from Stephen Hough
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on 25 February 2015
Love everything Stephen Hough plays. Met him when he was a young man just starting out on his career - he was brilliant then - so pleased he is at the top of the tree now.
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on 16 September 2014
very enjoyable programme - playing excellent
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on 20 October 2014
Always a huge pleasure to listen to
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on 13 December 2012
I found this a bit disappointing. I would like Stephen Hough to apply his obvious talent to something a little more serious. Also the title was misleading. The performance was good. Choice of work less so.
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