Get your name down now on the pre-order list for Hyperion’s forthcoming CD release from pianist Stephen Hough and the CBSO under Andris Nelsons.
When it eventually appears it’s bound to be one of the records of the year, and could well join Hough’s two previous releases with the CBSO (Mendelssohn, Lawrence Foster conducting and Saint-Saens, Sakari Oramo conducting) as Gramophone award-winners.
This time round it will be the Schumann concerto (recorded live at Symphony Hall last November), and the rare Dvorak, which an excited and packed auditorium acclaimed last night.
As Hough’s deeply-committed and dedicated performance revealed, the Dvorak does in fact have many Schumannesque moments, particularly in the opening movement, so the coupling will indeed be appropriate.
Hough brings probing thoughtfulness to everything he touches, and the listener is too transfixed ever to consider virtuosity.
He preserved the essential intimacy of the work even in a context which was perhaps too overblown for Dvorak’s ideas, with shaded reserves of tone and a dreamy spontaneity. The piano-writing is not that of a pianist-composer, but Hough was able to make the keyboard communicate tellingly, even at the normally thin top of its range.
This was a richly rewarding partnership between piano and CBSO, Nelsons and Hough breathing as one, and there were some gorgeous orchestral gems, not least the horn opening to the andante, and the bravely sustained long note from the violins at that movement’s end. Songs My Mother Taught Me, short and very sweet, was the perfect encore.
And so we came to what probably most of the audience had thronged to hear, Rachmaninov’s irresistibly wonderful Second Symphony.
There was so much to relish here: the quietly sonorous initial tuba entry; Zoe Beyers’ sweet solos from the concertmaster’s desk; a beautifully-phrased clarinet in the slow movement’s famous solo.
And Andris Nelsons found so much detail in this well-known score which until halfway through my own lifetime was shamefully played disfigured by cuts (the Russians themselves thought it was too long for an audience).
Sad to end with a “but”, though. This account got off to a bad start, Nelsons actually over-shaping the first movement’s opening subject, and ended disappointingly, the glorious return of the finale’s swooning second subject under-climactic as a peroration. Rachmaninov’s blend of patrician austerity tempering emotional directness didn’t really work here. But, for the record, there was an immediate standing ovation.