Stephen Hough appeared in a piano recital at Temple Beth Am in Miami on
Sunday March 31, 2019. Hough is a fascinating intellectual who not only has an extraordinarily vast piano repertoire but is also a composer and published novelist.
The program he chose for his recital in Miami was most interesting in several respects. For many years it has not been fashionable to play transcriptions in recitals. However, since in recent years transcriptions have come back into fashion, we were not surprised that Hough chose to begin with Busoni’s great transcription of the Chaconne from Bach’s Partita in D minor for solo violin. Unlike the Brahms transcription of the Chaconne, which is for left hand alone, Busoni’s is for both hands and in its complexity presents even more formidable technical and musical difficulties for the performer. Hough’s performance exhibited extraordinary technical mastery and made us enjoy the amazing sonorities created in the transcription of this work from solo violin to solo piano.
Hough then told the audience that a number of the pieces on the program which he had chosen had a common “somber mood” and he would therefore not take a break between these pieces.
Hough continued the first half of the program with Busoni’s Berceuse from Elegia and Chopin’s B-flat Minor Sonata, the so-called “Funeral March Sonata” with its 3rd movement funeral march, that has been described as a “poem of struggle and death.” Hough captured the mood magnificantly.
After intermission Hough began with his own Fourth Sonata and then
returned to a somber mood with Liszt’s Funerailles, the seventh piece of
Liszt’s Harmonies Poetiques et Religieuses composed in 1849. Although
some have thought it was a tribute to Chopin who had died during the
month it was composed, especially because of the octave passage reminiscent of the octaves in Chopin’s A-flat Polonaise, it is generally considered to have been inspired by the memory of Hungarians who had died during the revolutionary unrest of 1849. The Funerailles as been called “the most eloquent funeral oration ever pronounced by a solo instrument” Hough captured the powerfully constructed funeral march with shattering impact.
The recital program ended with a powerful performance of Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No. 1 (also called “The Dance at the Village Inn”) stimulated by Liszt’s affinity for Lenau, which along with Liszt’s Sonata was one of only two of Liszt’s pieces to have been entirely conceived after 1850.
The audience’s standing ovation was rewarded with Chopin’s Nocturne,
Opus 9, N0.2