The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Feb 17, 2012

You don't want to miss Stephen Hough

Posted by Gregory Stepanich

This weekend features an appearance by the excellent British pianist Stephen Hough, who comes to Julian Kreeger’s Friends of Chamber Music of Miami series for a solo recital.

Kreeger has gathered a selection of pianists this year, and Hough is among the most interesting. He’s a composer and blogger, as well as a pianist, and his program Sunday includes his own sonata for piano, called Broken Branches.

He’s pairing that with another relative rarity, the Fifth Sonata of Scriabin, and two pillars of the solo piano sonata literature: Lizst’s big Sonata in B minor and the ever-beloved "Moonlight" Sonata (No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2) of Beethoven.

Hough, as you can see from any number of nifty interviews on YouTube, is a multifaceted man who lives one of those enviable lives of the artistic mind. Here, for example, he talks to MusBook TV about rarely heard Tchaikovsky works for piano and orchestra; in the third section of the interview (which apparently is carried out in his home, with his paintings behind him), he says something that seems to me key to understanding the kind of musician he is.

He says that when he learns these pieces to perform them, that he gets very close to themand learns them for what they are. “I believe in all of them,” he says. “They’re like my children: I don’t have favorites.”

In other words, that’s how you bring commitment and engagement to what you’re trying to get across. That is the statement of a person who serves the music as best he can and gives it every chance to exercise its communicative power.

He also is the kind of player who does well in today’s eclectic musical universe; he doesn’t have any barriers to things. He simply plays, writes and arranges what he finds worth doing.

Throughout the years, I’ve heard any number of pianists offer his transcriptions of the music of Richard Rodgers ("My Favorite Things," for instance), and he’s also done delicious things, such as a Lisztian take on the "Radetzky March" of Johann Strauss I, and a fine set of meditations on music by Mozart.

I don’t know too many pianists out there who are much like him, with his kind of range and taste, and his concert Sunday night promises to be a can’t-miss event for pianists and lovers of performers who can bring something new to the standard works and to surprise you with something fresh but wonderful.

His recital is set for 8 p.m. Sunday at Gusman Hall on the University of Miami campus.

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