Super-virtuoso lives up to expectations
THE prospect of Stephen Hough playing both Liszt Piano Concertos with the LPO under Marin Alsop caused the pulse to race and the mouth to water when the concert was first advertised back in the summer.
Hough is no ordinary super-virtuoso. And he's not only the winner of the Gramophone Award for Best Classical CD of the last 30 years. He's also a man of probing musical intelligence. Liszt's two concertos were good demonstrations of his range: the first dazzling in its pyrotechnic display, with Hough shading and shaping bravura passages with subtlety and a wide tonal palette. The second is much more intimate, and here Hough showed his chamber music credentials in an intimate discussion of musical ideas.
In what was an unusually generous programme conductor Marin Alsop also moulded satisfying performances of Brahms' Tragic Overture and Dvorak's 7th Symphony. Alsop's vision was of heroic defiance in the face of adversity.
And in Dvorak's Symphony the LPO managed the quick transitions from vitality to melancholy with aplomb and, in the Scherzo, seemed to have the rhythms of Czech folk dance, in their bloodstream.
All in all, a concert that lived up to high expectations.