This excellent disc from pianist Stephen Hough and Hyperion showcases the piano works of American composer George Tsontakis in combination with works from the Second Viennese School. Tsontakis’ compositional style is quite reminiscent of the twelve tone works of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern, and although the major work presented here, Man of Sorrows, is very much in the form of a piano concerto, Tsontakis suggests that the work is more of a tone poem for piano and orchestra. Tsontakis was recently awarded the Grawemeyer Award from the University of Louisville; it’s one of compositions’ richest and most prestigious prizes, and Tsontakis’ star is definitely on the rise.
Man of Sorrows is a musical meditation on an image of a crucifix, and although there are religious undertones, there’s no overt program to connect the six movements. The music is sometimes startling and chaotic, but it has a seriously melodic current that runs throughout. Stephen Hough’s playing is magnificent, and Andrew Litton and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra provide superb accompaniment. The solo piano pieces that complete the disc offer a compelling link between the music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
As usual for Hyperion, the sound quality is nothing short of superb. Man of Sorrows was recorded live, and the recording team did an excellent job of balancing Stephen Hough’s piano with the orchestra. On the solo pieces, the piano occupies a firm position in the soundstage and offers reference quality sound. Highly recommended. [I’m not a 12-tone fan at all, but I think Berg’s Piano Sonata is one of the finest keyboard works of the 20th century…Ed.]
– Tom Gibbs