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Wagner Lohengrin: Prelude to Act III
Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No.5 (Egyptian)
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Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique

It’s not hard to work out why Stephen Hough is one of the few living musicians to have been awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship: you just have to listen. Gramophone readers voted his recording of Saint-Saëns’s Piano Concertos the best classical recording of recent decades, and chances to hear the sparkling Fifth Concerto – composed while Saint-Saëns was on a cruise to Egypt – don’t come around every day. Hough loves it, and he’s accompanied by Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé, one of the most dynamic conductor/orchestra partnerships of our time.

And then – imagine a severed head, a glittering waltz, a guillotine and a satanic orgy, all set to music, scored in Technicolor and played by a supersized orchestra with the volume turned up to eleven. Sounds fantastic? Welcome to Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, a delirious, psychedelic extravaganza composed by an obsessive young genius in opium-fuelled overdrive. It’ll knock you backwards.

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