Stephen Hough reviewed in The Age
Clive O’Connell, Reviewer, The Age
FOR his second Musica Viva tour, British pianist Stephen Hough begins and ends his program with sonatas familiar to most music lovers: Beethoven’s C sharp minor, the Moonlight, and Liszt’s solitary essay in B minor, heard live rarely enough but also performed in the Murdoch Hall last week by Nikolai Demidenko.
Along Tuesday night’s journey, Hough also gave an outing to two middle-period Scriabin sonatas as well as his own newly minted broken branches sonata. You could find little here that was disturbingly novel; the Russian works packed with neurasthenic action that made virtuosic excitement out of slim material, while the pianist’s own composition spoke with an unexpectedly aspiring energy.
Hough has a consummate mastery in the craft of heightening and decreasing attention on inner workings, as in the chains of subservient triplets in the Beethoven sonata’s first movement, in the light but continuous block-chord progression of the succeeding allegretto and through the fierce accumulation of layers in the concluding presto.
A persuasive advocate for the sometimes skittish character of Scriabin’s sonatas 4 and 5, particularly the earlier F sharp major with its scintillating prestissimo, Hough gave a forceful and driven reading of the great Liszt construct, responsive to the composer’s soulful lyricism, interpreting the sonata’s narrative with lashings of ardour and the occasional overpowering wash of sonorous fabric.