Stephen Hough

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1

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While it is unlikely to displace longtime listeners' existing favorite recordings of the work, Stephen Hough and Andrew Davis' 1991 Virgin recording of Brahms' D minor Piano Concerto is still well worth hearing by fans of the work or the musicians. The principal reason for this is the freshness and seriousness with which Hough approaches the piece. A tremendous virtuoso with a huge tone, a strong sense of tempo, and a winning way with phrasing a theme, Hough's playing here has a sense of freedom and passion that is hard to resist. While he still stays well within the limits of the score, Hough finds plenty of room for expression and interpretation. His account doesn't alter the work's fundamental outlines, but it does find interesting new things to say about it. Davis, usually a staid conductor who rarely ventures outside his tradition-bound comfort zone, supports Hough with an accompaniment that roars, sings, and murmurs. Recorded in crisp, cool digital sound, this disc may not provoke older listeners to give up their Schnabel, Kempff, Arrau, and Pollini discs, but hardcore fans of the work may nevertheless still take pleasure in Hough's ride on Brahms' warhorse.

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