Chopin has been flavour of the year for leading record labels with the 175th anniversary of his death and among the multiple releases dedicated to the great Pole are two equally magnificent but very different readings of his complete Nocturnes .
Jan Lisiecki’s survey on Deutsche Grammophon, heavily lauded by this reviewer recently, can be seen as a young man’s approach, albeit it with the pianist’s innate and surprising maturity. Whereas British-born Australian star Stephen Hough, at 59 more than twice the Canadian wunderkind’s age, brings to them all the distilled wisdom, poetry and scholarly nonchalant charm of one who is at the very zenith of a brilliantly successful career.
As a composer as well as a performer and writer, Hough lends a composer’s sensibility to these works and points out in his liner notes that although Chopin wrote no operas and only a handful of pretty ordinary songs, he idealised the human voice. “Enter the nocturnes – some of the finest bel canto