Pianist Stephen Hough is in town and we are lucky to have him, says PETA STEWART in her interview with the renowned musician:
Disappointment reigned when negotiations with one of the world’s foremost pianists, Stephen Hough, a couple of years ago came to naught, but when Hough decided to come to Cape Town on holiday his agent made contact … and disappointment turned to jubilation. For Hough, who is considered by the UK’s ClassicFM to be one of THE top 25 pianists ever, this is a coup of major proportions! He will perform the Fourth Piano Concerto by Beethoven in an all-Beethoven fundraising gala for the CPO on December 20. Principal guest conductor Bernhard Gueller will be on the podium.
Since this concert is sold out, Hough has generously allowed the dress rehearsal to be opened to the public to raise funds for the youth orchestras. It’s no secret that, with diminishing national government funding and a question mark raised about the formation of one national symphony orchestra and one national opera company, the future of the next generation of musicians, let alone the City’s premier cultural asset, the CPO, is at risk.
Words that apply to Hough include “consummate”, “Renaissance man”, “supreme mastery”, and “A virtuoso who begins where others leave off” (Washington Post), and he was named by The Economist as one of Twenty Living Polymaths. He is thus much more than just a brilliant pianist … he is also an acclaimed writer and composer.
Stephen Hough: Accomplished writer
His first novel, The Final Retreat, following the publication of The Bible as Prayer in 2007, was published earlier this year, and was an immediate success. “We’re into the second print run now. I’ve had some astonishing reactions and communications from people about it, especially confidential ones from priests who say that it’s their story. Some have told me it reduced them to tears,” says Hough.
He has written for The Guardian, The Times, The Tablet, Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine and has had a very influential blog over a number of years for The Telegraph. What’s more, he is also the artist in full performance on an IPad app, the Liszt Sonata. He has received many commissions from venues such as Wigmore Hall, Musée du Louvre, London’s National Gallery, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet for works.
Naming the orchestras with which he has appeared, conductors with whom he has collaborated and festivals and venues where he has performed would become the most boring of exercises since no one would be left off, but mentioning that he has made more than 25 concerto appearances at the BBC Proms is an indication! He twice played all the works ever written for piano and orchestra by Tchaikovsky – at the Proms in 2009 and later with the Chicago Symphony, and in the past year when he was Artist-in-Residence at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra he performed all the Beethoven concertos.
A CBE in the UK New Year’s Honours list of 2014, Hough was the winner of the Naumberg Competition in New York in 1983 and stepped at once into the international limelight. His CDs, some of which will be on sale at the CPO concert and dress rehearsal on December 20, number more than 60. Naturally they are highly pedigreed, with awards such as Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, Diapason d’Or, and eight Gramophone Magazine Awards including ‘Record of the Year’ twice linked to them.
And in his spare time Hough is a visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music and holds the International Chair of Piano Studies at his alma mater, the Royal Northern College in Manchester. He is also a member of the faculty at The Juilliard School.
He arrives in the city for a well-earned break which will start on Friday, having spent five days recording two CDs, all the late piano music of Brahms and a mixed recital disc of Liszt, Chopin, Busoni and Hough.
After the New Year, he’ll be with the Vienna Symphony playing Dvorak concerto.
Stephen Hough: “A man everyone likes”
Conductor Bernhard Gueller looks forward very much to this concert not only because of Hough’s reputation, but he is looking forward to a collaboration with a man everyone likes. Award-winning Canadian composer and pianist and personal friend of both Dinuk Wijeratne writes this: “Not only is Stephen a true polymath and epic musician, but also one of the nicest people you could meet. I had the great fortune of hanging out with Stephen many times when I was a student musician in the UK and the US. Informally, through our chats, I learned so much about the arts from him. It warms my heart that he and Bernhard will be sharing the stage, and I so wish I could be there!”
Asked whether he has a preference in concerto vs recital, Hough says: “I love both. The great concerto repertoire (especially the Beethoven I will play in Cape Town) is so magnificent but maybe there’s a more personal way of exploring ideas in a recital.” Since he’s only here for one performance, the added impetus to buy tickets for the dress rehearsal is that the Hough concert will NOT be broadcast live by Fine Music Radio ….
What: Celebrity gala concert featuring Stephen Hough with the CPO
Where: Cape Town City Hall
When: 20 December 2018. Dress rehearsal at 11am open to the public
Info: www.cpo.org.za/ Artscape Dial-A-Seat 021 421 7695