The Romantic Piano Concerto series reaches Volume 50. This series has been described as a jewel in Hyperion’s crown and one of the glories of the recording industry. Rarely in the history of recorded music has such a rich seam of undiscovered delights been mined to such consistently dazzling effect. These first fifty volumes include 131 works for piano and orchestra: fifty-nine of these works are premiere recordings and many other featured works have only been recorded once before. The performers include some of the greatest pianists, orchestras and conductors in the world, and each disc in itself is a miracle of virtuosity, scholarship and musicianship.
For Volume 50, a stellar cast has been assembled for a two-disc set that includes, unusually, one of the most famous concertos in the repertoire. Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 has certainly achieved warhorse status—but in the expert hands of Stephen Hough it is a new creature. With the rest of this fascinating two-disc set we are in more usual RPC territory, with music which is actually not widely known. This is a complete survey of Tchaikovsky’s music for piano and orchestra and includes alternative versions of the second movement of Piano Concerto No 2 as well as some delicious extras.
Stephen Hough performed all four concertos at the BBC Proms in 2009 and was described as ‘the epitome of a “golden age” virtuoso with his balletic elegance and dazzling rhythmic reflexes’ (The Independent). Armed with this inestimably important experience, he travelled to Minnesota to record the set live with the Minnesota Orchestra under their acclaimed conductor Osmo Vänskä. The result is a set of unique importance: a winning combination of a pianist at the zenith of his artistry, a world-class orchestra and director, a pre-eminent producer and engineer, repertoire both familiar and unknown, and packaged with even more than the usual care that customers have come to expect from Hyperion.
2 compact discs, with slipcase and series catalogue
Both soloist and conductor seem committed to emphasising the architectural integrity of Tchaikovsky's musical thinking...Yet by keeping things moving and delivering performances that project an exceptionally high level of adrenaline, Hough brings a much greater degree of coherence. BBC *****
he old warhorse comes up as fresh as paint. Even with 130 alternatives on the market, this is an exceptional reading with brisk tempi and subtle nuances...giving special pleasure...This is a great recording - no doubt about that - and one which, if there is any justice, will garner any number of awards. Gramophone