Stephen Fry explores his passion for controversial composer Richard Wagner. Can he salvage the music he loves from its dark association with Hitler's Nazi regime? His journey takes him to Germany, Switzerland and Russia as he pieces together the story of the composer's career. Along the way he plays Wagner's piano, meets the composer's descendants and eavesdrops on rehearsals for the Bayreuth Festival, the annual extravaganza of Wagner's music held in a theatre designed by the composer himself.
Stephen Layton and Polyphony have a long and fruitful relationship with the music of Arvo Pärt. Their recording of Triodion and other choral works (CDA67375) won a Gramophone Award and became a cult classic. The extraordinary purity of Polyphony’s singing is the perfect vehicle for music of such clean, elemental simplicity, such cathartic calm. This third Pärt album from Stephen Layton and Polyphony reaches right back, intriguingly, to the composer’s youthful modernist phase and spans nearly five decades—from 1963 to 2012—in the process. As with the album Triodion, it reflects an increasingly broad spread of languages and sources in Pärt’s chosen texts. Latin, German and English are joined here by Church Slavonic and Spanish. A range of biblical texts are set alongside ancient prayers.
As a world-renowned piano virtuoso, Stephen Hough has demonstrated time and again his prodigious skills in brilliant performances of the great concertos, though as a recording artist, he has revealed a wider range of repertoire and unexpected interests. This Hyperion release of Edvard Grieg's Lyric Pieces is an example of how Hough sometimes ventures into quiet, less familiar byways that offer him a variety of expressive possibilities. These miniatures are far removed from blockbuster showpieces, and their picturesque scenes and delicate melodies suggest the careful handiwork of the craftsman. They also reflect Grieg's nostalgia for the Romantic past and love for Norwegian fairy tales and folkways, which he expressed with disarming simplicity and succinctness. Hough's program of 27 selections from the larger collection of 66 pieces, published in 10 books, extends from the early Arietta of 1867 to Remembrances of 1901, giving a generous representation of Grieg's intimate musings and evocative character studies.
Talk about understatement – there's Stephen Stills on the cover, acoustic guitar in hand, promising a personal singer/songwriter-type statement. And there is some of that – even a lot of that personal music-making – on Stephen Stills, but it's all couched in astonishingly bold musical terms. Stephen Stills is top-heavy with 1970 sensibilities, to be sure, from the dedication to the memory of Jimi Hendrix to the now piggish-seeming message of "Love the One You're With."