As the internationally-renowned pianist Stephen Hough writes in his liner notes to this composer portrait, he began composing at the age of six, around the time he began to play the piano. Until the age of twenty he continued to write music, but then, ‘owing to a combination of diminishing time and fading compositional self-confidence’, stopped almost entirely.
Hough describes the closing work on this disc, The Loneliest Wilderness from 2005, as his ‘first serious piece in two decades’, but this has been followed by a steady stream of works, including two Masses. The focus of the present programme, compiled to celebrate the composer's 50th birthday, is on chamber music – with Hough himself appearing in three of the works: the piano sonata broken branches, his settings of five autumnal poems by Rilke sung by the baritone Jacques Imbrailo, and the trio Was mit den Tränen geschieht. The latter work was composed for Michael Hasel and Marion Reinhard of the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet, an ensemble with which Hough has collaborated on several occasions, and features the piccolo and the contrabassoon, a striking combination described by the composer as possessing ‘great poignancy: the alienation of two instruments unable to meet on the same pitch.’
The elegiac The Loneliest Wilderness is based on a previous song setting by Hough of a poem by Herbert Read, and again the work was written for a close collaborator of the composer, namely Steven Isserlis who performs it here together with the Tapiola Sinfonietta conducted by Gábor Takács-Nagy.