Vida Breve

Vida Breve

by Stephen HoughStephen Hough


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Vida Breve (Short Life) is the subtitle title of "one of the compositions" on this recital by pianist Stephen Hough, a piano sonata in a virtuoso early 20th century mode, but the concept also refers to the theme of the entire album, which is nothing less than life and death. Of course, the programmatic recital is nothing new, though the kind that presents the pianist as a hero rather than as a servant of the music isn't so common nowadays. It may be a surprise to see the sometimes reserved Hough in this role, but that speaks to the depth of his playing overall. What makes it work is that most of the music comes from the Chopin-Liszt orbit, and Liszt, especially, would have been happy to play a recital like this. The pieces connect with varying degrees of specificity to the overall theme, yet everything works. The experimental Liszt "Bagatelle sans tonalité" from late in his career is linked to the Liszt "Mephisto Waltzes," which are relevant enough, and the opening Busoni arrangement of the "Chaconne" from Bach's "Partita in D minor for solo violin, BWV 1004," although not directly on topic, certainly has the flavor of wrestling with eternal questions. As usual, Hough's interpretations are very strong; the Chopin "Piano Sonata in B flat minor, Op. 35" is a bit hard-edged, but this fits the context. One can question the church sound; however philosophically appropriate it may be, it lends Hough's Yamaha a chilly edge, and it doesn't resemble the spaces in which this music would have originally been heard. This is, nevertheless, an original and powerful recital.

Product Details

Release Date: 01/29/2021
Label: Hyperion
UPC: 0034571282602
catalogNumber: 68260
Rank: 18071


  1. Partita for solo violin No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004: Chaconne

    1. Chaconne
  2. Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35, CT. 202

    1. Grave - Doppio movimento
    2. Scherzo
    3. Marche funèbre
    4. Presto
  3. Harmonies poétiques et réligieuses (10), for piano, S. 173 (LW A158): Funérailles

    1. Funérailles
  4. Bagatelle sans tonalité, for piano, S. 216a (LW A338)
  5. Sonatina sopra Carmen, for piano (No. 6), KiV 284
  6. Piano Sonata No. 4 ("Vida breve")
  7. Arirang
  8. Ave Maria, for voice & piano, CG 89e (after Bach's Prelude No. 1 from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1)

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