Stephen Hough has not surfaced lately and it's a shame. Most of his recordings can be found as reissues, such as this one from the Virgin "ultraviolet" budget series. It's a stunner – some of the best Liszt playing I have heard. The rollicking aragonesca of the "Rhapsodie" inspires Hough to alpine feats of prestidigitation. I laughed with astonishment when I heard it.
But for all of his super-pianism, his hallmark is control and refinement of tone. He's very much in the Earl Wild mold. Like Wild, his playing can verge at times on the precious as he strives for too delicate an effect. We never forget, however, that a unique intellect is at work. Our few misgivings pale beside music-making of this stature.
Copyright © 1998, Robert J. Sullivan