“The very opening item, Rawsthorne's four Bagatelles, instantly makes it clear that this latest recital disc from Stephen Hough has a different aim from his previous collections of charmers.
Gritty and tough, in Hough's hands sounding wonderfully pianistic, these miniatures are thoughtful and intense, balanced at the end of the disc by the final item, also by far the longest, Kenneth Leighton's Study Variations. These do not make for easy listening either, but they inspire Hough to superb pianism over six sharply characterised pieces, at times echoing Bartók in their angry energy, at others full of fantasy. What all these very varied pieces demonstrate is Hough's profound love of keyboard sound and textures, and his rare gift of bringing out the full tonal beauty.
It's evidence, too, of Hough's wizardry that he makes the Elgar piece, In Smyrna, sound so magical. In his hands it's like an improvisation with echoes of the lovely solo viola serenade in the overture, In the South. The three Bowen works are simple and song-like using an almost cabaret-style of piano writing. In all these pieces Hough's magic is presented in full, clear Hyperion sound. Thoroughly recommended.”