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Stephen Hough's 'French Album,' A 'Musical Dessert Trolley'

Stephen Hough's newest release is the <em>French Album</em>.
Stephen Hough's newest release is the <em>French Album</em>.

As with food, as with fashion, as with film, there does seem to be a distinct French style when it comes to composition. The much-heralded English pianist Stephen Hough has been studying what makes a piece of music uniquely French. It's resulted in his latest collection: the French Album.

With works by Debussy, Faure, Poulenc and a number of lesser-known composers, Hough says he considers this new album "a sort of musical dessert trolley."

"There are some impressionist pieces, but it's a kind of romantic impressionism as well," Hough says. "Impressionism we sometimes think as being rather cool somehow and distant. But this is music of a voluptuousness, of that kind of Frenchness: the smell of the French cigarette, the smear of lipstick on the collar and slightly too much perfume, that whole Parisian theme that's so fascinating to us all."

Here, Stephen Hough talks with NPR's Guy Raz about making the French Album, the missing link between Mozart and Chopin, and why he needs to know a composition's back story before he commits to playing it.

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