If you're in the mood, pianist Stephen Hough's My Favorite Things will be just the thing. The mood in question is, of course, the mood for virtuoso encores and transcriptions from the golden age of piano players. Many of that era's supreme titans, from Liszt to Godowsky, are represented here with 20 examples of piano writing at its most idiomatic and difficult. Some of the works are adorable, like Paderewski's scrumptious Minuet in G with its sweeping arpeggios, others are witty like Rosenthal's Waltz with its flittering hand-crossings, and still others are exquisite like Godowsky's transcription of Saint-Saëns' The Swan with its glittering arabesques. But while all the works here are enormously challenging, virtuosity is rarely an end in itself, but rather a means to another end: seducing the listener with ravishingly beautiful music. And to this greater end, Hough has given his best. With his glowing tone, dazzling colors, effortless virtuosity, and total control, Hough has the equipment to play anything he sets his mind to, and he dispatches the works here with tremendous enthusiasm and genuine affection. This is especially true for Hough's performances of his own four transcriptions, particularly his arrangement of the Richard Rogers' song that gives the disc its title. From the introduction's slyly sidestepping harmonies through the verse's giddily swooping melody to the coda's magically disappearing textures, Hough's My Favorite Things fits right in with the rest of his program. Recorded in richly atmospheric yet still surprisingly detailed digital sound, this disc will charm and delight listeners who are in the mood for re-creating the golden age of piano playing.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Fantasiestücke (2) for piano, Op. 17|
|The Maiden's Wish, transcription for piano (after Chopin, Op. 71/1, Chants polonais No. 1), S. 480/1 (LW A193/1)|
|Songs (3), for voice & piano, Op. 3|
|Songs (6), Op. 25|
|Miscellanea, for piano, Op. 16|