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Tsontakis: Man of Sorrows; et al / Litton, Hough, Dallas SO

Album Summary

>Tsontakis, George : Man of Sorrows, for piano & orchestra
>Schoenberg, Arnold : Little Pieces (6) for piano, Op. 19
>Berg, Alban : Sonata for Piano, Op. 1
>Webern, Anton : Variations for piano, Op. 27
>Tsontakis, George : Sarabesque (for Sarah Rothenberg)
Performer Conductor Ensemble Composers

Notes & Reviews:

Hyperion's star pianist Stephen Hough presents a new disc of fascinating repertoire. George Tsontakis (b. 1951) is a giant of the American contemporary music scene, a recently named recipient of the Charles Ives Living award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the 2005 winner of the prestigious Grawemeyer Award. Tsontakis wrote his Man of Sorrows for Stephen Hough, who gave its 2005 world première. The six movement work for piano and orchestra demonstrates Tsontakis' muscular, expressive musical language, influenced by Beethoven and Messiaen. Inspired by medieval Byzantine icons of Christ, the Man of Sorrows, the composer explores in sound his response to the suffering and passion of Jesus as represented in these serene religious artworks. Hough has often written and spoken out on the relationship between religion and music; backed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Andrew Litton, he performs this new work with extraordinary sympathy and understanding. Also heard here are three iconic works of the Second Viennese School and Sarabesque, a solo piano by Tsontakis.

'[Man of Sorrows] Brilliantly written for the keyboard and scintillatingly orchestrated ... The piece is superly played and recorded, patently sincere and easily assimilable' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Bewitching, otherworldly and playful music ... If ever a composer wanted to share a sheer joy in sound, it's Tsontakis ... The Dallas Symphony Orchestra plays like a dream and Stephen Hough brings an Apollonian sense of beauty and control to the proceedings' (Metro)

'A five-star performance and recording' (Gramophone)

'George Tsontakis's piano concerto, Man of Sorrows, first performed by pianist Stephen Hough, conductor Andrew Litton and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and played on this new release with great conviction and concentration by the same forces, is a post-Messiaen composition. All the trademarks of the great French maitre permeate Tsontakis's concerto: the angular melodies, sumptuous harmonies, glittering, bell-like piano writing, and a mood of contemplation. To call it eclectic is not a criticism, just an observation of a work that is hypnotic and profound. Hough's superlative performances of piano music by Schoenberg, Berg and Webern also deserve maximum exposure' (Glasgow Herald)

'First heard in Dallas in September 2005 (those performances form the basis of this recording), Tsontakis's 40-minute work takes the listener on a compelling journey in which the musical language is familiar yet unpredictable and subtly personal. This is a pictorial and revealing score, which pulsates with rhythm (and yields a description personal to the listener) and is often expressively beautiful, and is also about something both specific yet intangible' (ClassicalSource.com)

'The stations of this Cross contain many moments that are very simply beautiful; the tinkling bells in 'Shards' for example, which turn into a peal at the apprehension of resurrection within the crucifixion. However disparate the influences, Tsontakis succeeds in welding together a work of real spirituality, which will surely move every listener. Litton and the Detroit players are extremely sensitive, flexible interpreters. This is also a fine artist portrait of the CD's protagonist, Stephen Hough. Hough is a fine intellect who composes and champions much new music. The first Schoenberg piece, 'leicht, zart' and played by Hough with the utmost delicacy, might serve as a touchstone for this CD and for Hough's art ... These pieces, and the Weberns, are magnum in parvo in Hough's fingers and worth the price of the disc on their own ... an absolutely outstandingly realised project; two entirely complementary halves; deeply impressive playing and compositions of absolute integrity' (MusicalPointers.co.uk)

'Hough and the Dallas orchestra sound like a composer's dream team. There are many great recordings of Berg's post-Romantic thriller, but Hough's account has poetry of its own' (New Jersey Star Ledger, USA)

'Man of Sorrows is an expansive 40 minutes, a tone poem for piano and orchestra with, in the composer's words, a religious dynamic and complexity. There is colossal assurance in the way Tsontakis measures out his material. He is not afraid of the sumptuous and Hough is allowed to glitter, which he does with élan ... Inevitably, one hears the world of Messiaen, particularly in Hough's incisive playing while, in the background, the orchestra counters with imposing and resolutely orthodox tonality. This builds up to a heart-stopping climax ... The estimable Dallas Symphony Orchestra with conductor Andrew Litton, who squired Hough in his 2004 set of Rachmaninov Concertos, make it a memorable, full-blooded occasion' (New Zealand Herald)

'Progressing from innocence through crisis, optimism, somber resignation and finally arriving at a renewal of the questioning innocence of the opening, the work is a effective and emotionally engaging piece, readily accessible and approachable' (RecordsInternational.com)

'L'oeuvre se présente comme un long enchainement évoquant différent états de la fragilité humaine, à la fois très accessible et très codé ... avec des orientations émotionelles remarquablement limpides. De même que la gracieuse Sarabesque (2004), Man Of Sorrows fait au piano les honneurs d'une écriture fraîche' (Diapason, France)

'This new recording of works by the American George Tsontakis, Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern, is well worth buying. Tsontakis might draw on mathematics in shaping his music, but you'd hardly notice that amid the powerful, well-orchestrated emotions of his work' (Scotland on Sunday)

'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 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' (Audiophile Audition, USA)

A masterfully conceived and performed disc of piano music that, while it will never be in the concert hall mainstream, will never, in great performance, exhibit less than searing power' (Buffalo News, USA)

'This is a serious work of substance and integrity, challenging and rewarding, provocative in the best possible sense. It is performed here with the utmost care and devotion' (American Record Guide)

'Man of Sorrows is a fascinating, prismatic work that has an iridescent orchestral texture combined with writing that gives the impression of being atonal and impressionistic but never really wanders too far from a clear narrative line. The blunted but shining music brings to mind those qualities in Olivier Messiaen. Also like the devout late French master, Tsontakis found inspiration for the piece in an icon. The fine recording on Hyperion is by pianist Stephen Hough, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and conductor Andrew Litton. Rounding out the disc are piano works of Berg, Webern and Schoenberg, which only underscores that Tsontakis isn't all that removed from the Second Viennese School' (Times Union, USA)

'Man of Sorrows is this essential American composer's first piano concerto. The music glistens and drips, like dewdrops - or sweet myrrh from an icon. Tinged by Messiaen (that sense of refracted light), it also conveys a rugged, ecstatic heart-song that feels related to Eastern Orthodoxy. It's exceptionally beautiful and commandingly performed on this disc' (San Jose Mercury, USA)



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Works Details

>Tsontakis, George : Man of Sorrows, for piano & orchestra
  • Performer: Stephen Hough (Piano)
  • Conductor: Andrew Litton
  • Ensemble: Dallas Symphony Orchestra
  • Notes: Eugene McDermott Concert Hall, Morton H Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas, TX (09/15/2005-09/18/2005)
  • Running Time: 38 min. 5 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary

>Schoenberg, Arnold : Little Pieces (6) for piano, Op. 19
  • Performer: Stephen Hough (Piano)
  • Notes: St. George's, Brandon Hill, Bristol, England (11/05/2006/11/06/2006)
  • Running Time: 4 min. 42 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Written: 1911

>Berg, Alban : Sonata for Piano, Op. 1
  • Performer: Stephen Hough (Piano)
  • Running Time: 10 min. 55 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: circa 1907-1908

>Webern, Anton : Variations for piano, Op. 27
  • Performer: Stephen Hough (Piano)
  • Notes: St. George's, Brandon Hill, Bristol, England (11/05/2006/11/06/2006)
  • Running Time: 5 min. 57 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Written: 1935-1936

>Tsontakis, George : Sarabesque (for Sarah Rothenberg)
  • Performer: Stephen Hough (Piano)
  • Notes: St. George's, Brandon Hill, Bristol, England (11/05/2006/11/06/2006)
  • Running Time: 5 min. 47 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2003