At Wesley Chapel, Harrogate
Most pianists would have used any one of Stephen Hough's programme of five works to end their recital with a big virtuoso showpiece, yet throughout this exacting evening his playing was imbued with unfailing musicianship.
Opening with the hushed colours of Beethoven's sonata we know as the Moonlight, was just a prelude to the enormous storm that Hough was to unleash in the presto agitato of the final movement.
The change of mood to the quirkiness of Janacek's sonata was not an easy transition. Yet it was consummately achieved, those lightning flash shifts from the acerbic to poetic lyricism requiring Hough's idiomatic handling.Not a programme that proves a box office draw, but he was playing to chapel bursting at the seams, the two volatile and hard-hitting Scriabin sonatas – the fourth and fifth – setting the scene for the monumental Liszt B minor sonata.
Hands that had become a blur in Scriabin were now called upon to engulf the listener in a staggering dynamic range, Hough veering between the torrential and sheer weight and delicate filigree fingerwork in a reading of impressive authority.
It was a towering achievement and a fitting conclusion to a spell-binding recital.