Stephen Hough

The Stephen Hough Piano Collection

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An artist as versatile, virtuosic, and adventurous as Stephen Hough is hard to pin down, and this varied sampler is unlikely to define him, though it gives a a good impression of his many interests and rather flexible approach to piano music. Yet there is a scattershot quality to this compilation that may bother casual listeners who are less interested in Hough's numerous recording projects, but more concerned with the music at hand. With the exception of two pieces previously unreleased -- Pining for the Spring Breeze by Deng Yu-Hsien, and Hough's own composition, Suite Osmanthus -- these tracks represent his 11 solo albums for Hyperion, and provide too much variety to absorb comfortably. Skipping around may be the best solution, or taking in a few tracks at a time, because Hough has crammed in so much music from all over the stylistic map that familiar Romantic works, Classical excerpts, soft Impressionist reveries, long virtuoso showpieces, and concentrated modernist studies sit cheek by jowl, without any logic or apparent plan. Hough's playing is always clean and appealing, and the sound quality is fine throughout; but because this album is so densely packed and runs to nearly 80 minutes in duration, it is not recommended to be heard in one sitting.

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