Jun 292013


Stephen Hough 353x500 Stephen Hough answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Musicians’ EditionWhen did you start play­ing the piano?
When I was about six — a toy piano at first, then a Ger­man upright bought at an antique shop for £5.

Why did you start play­ing?
I was utterly cap­tiv­ated by an aunt’s piano and wanted noth­ing more than to begin lessons.

Which pian­ist inspired you most when you were young?
My first LP was by Clive Lyth­goe, on Music for Pleas­ure. but then Key­board Giants of the Past was bought for me and I fell in love with Rachmaninov’s play­ing and other pian­ists from the 1920s.

Which pian­ist do you most admire?
That LP was the start­ing point — all my favour­ites are still (unfor­tu­nately) dead. Cor­tot, Friedman …

What’s your favour­ite piece to play?
The one I’m play­ing — sorry that sounds corny but it’s true.

What piece have you never played but would like to?
I must crack open some Bach — never played a (pro­fes­sional) note.

What’s your favour­ite piece to listen to?
No par­tic­u­lar piece but I do like the sound of the crackle of gar­lic fry­ing in olive oil …

Who is your favour­ite ?
Again impossible to say.

Who is your favour­ite writer?
So many — Willa Cather is a nov­el­ist I love and, as she’s not well-enough known, I’ll men­tion her here.

Who is your favour­ite theatre or film dir­ector?
I do always love Hitchcock.

Who is your favour­ite actor?
… and he’s a good friend.

Who is your favour­ite dan­cer?
Maybe , in the right piece.

What is your favour­ite book?
Another impossible ques­tion — I love mod­ern social his­tory. Dominic Sandbrook’s State of Emer­gency about the early 1970s was great. Tony Judt’s Post-war too …

What is your favour­ite film?
I never tire of some old chest­nuts: Twelve Angry Men, It’s a Won­der­ful Life. White Rib­bon; and Vic­tim was an import­ant start to gay liberation.

Which is your favour­ite city?
I sup­pose Lon­don to live in, but let me keep vis­it­ing New York, Sydney, Chicago, Paris, New Orleans …

What do you like most about your­self?
That I find that ques­tion impossible to answer — and that not answer­ing the next ques­tion doesn’t make me feel bad.

What do you dis­like about your­self?
See ques­tion above.

What was your proudest moment?
I’m too Cath­olic to tell you — (let not your right hand know what your left hand is doing).

hough10 high 337x500 Stephen Hough answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Musicians’ EditionWhen and where were you hap­pi­est?
There’s nearly always a moment in every day when I feel a burst of joy. Usu­ally with simple things, a won­der­ful tree in a par­tic­u­lar kind of light, a sense of grat­it­ude for life, for just being able to walk down the street wherever I like. A great croissant …

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
The greatest love of my life.

What is your greatest fear?
Being trapped in a cage with a hun­dred hungry rats — or, more ser­i­ously, being totally paralysed.

If you could change one thing about your­self, what would it be?
I hope I’m chan­ging things all the time.

What do you con­sider to be your greatest achieve­ment?
Not to have reached a sense that I have a greatest achieve­ment … yet.

What is your most treas­ured pos­ses­sion?
My freedom.

What is your greatest extra­vag­ance?
Expens­ive hats, chocol­ate (some­times a whole bar in one go).

What do you con­sider the most over­rated vir­tue?
Success/prestige — if those are virtues.

On what occa­sion do you lie?
Some­times to save someone’s feel­ings: “Do you like my poems?” Er, yes.

If you hadn’t been a pian­ist what would you have liked to be?
I wanted to be a priest in the past but now they prob­ably wouldn’t have me. Maybe a painter, but (even if i were good enough) it’s an impossible life.

What is your most marked char­ac­ter­istic?
You’ll have to ask my friends.

What qual­ity do you most value in a friend?
Gen­er­os­ity, kind­ness, sense of fun.

What qual­ity do you most value in a col­league?

Which his­tor­ical fig­ure do you most admire?
I wouldn’t like to say hav­ing not met them.

Which liv­ing per­son do you most admire?
I can’t single any­one out.

What do you most dis­like?
Sanc­ti­mo­ni­ous prejudice.

What tal­ent would you most like to have?
Lan­guages — I’d love to be able to speak half a dozen.

What’s your idea of per­fect hap­pi­ness?
A free day with noth­ing to do but read fol­lowed by a night at the theatre with friends fol­lowed by din­ner fol­lowed by the same the next day.

How would you like to die?
Not sud­denly but not a pro­trac­ted ill­ness. A feel­ing unwell fol­lowed by an hour or two to pre­pare for the moment and talk to friends then a slid­ing into sleep.

What is your motto?
Everything mat­ters and noth­ing matters.


— a biography

Named by The Eco­nom­ist as one of 20 Liv­ing Poly­maths, Brit­ish pian­ist Stephen Hough is a rare renais­sance man of our time. Over the course of a long and dis­tin­guished career as one of the world’s lead­ing con­cert pian­ists, he has also excelled as a writer and com­poser. Mr Hough com­bines an excep­tional facil­ity and tonal palette with a uniquely inquis­it­ive musical per­son­al­ity, and his musical achieve­ments have res­ul­ted in many awards and accol­ades for his con­certs and a dis­co­graphy of more than fifty recordings.

In 2001 Mr Hough became the first clas­sical per­form­ing artist to win a MacAr­thur Found­a­tion Fel­low­ship. He was awar­ded the 2008 North­west­ern University’s Jean Gim­bel Lane Prize in Piano and went on to win the Royal Phil­har­monic Soci­ety Instru­ment­al­ist Award in 2010. He has appeared with almost all of the major European and Amer­ican orches­tras and plays recit­als reg­u­larly in halls and con­cert series around the world. His recent engage­ments include recit­als in Ber­lin, Chicago, Hong Kong, Lon­don, New York, Paris, San Fran­cisco, Shang­hai, and Sydney; per­form­ances with the Czech, Lon­don, Los Angeles, and New York Phil­har­mon­ics, the Chicago, Pitt­s­burgh, San Fran­cisco, St. Louis, and Toronto sym­phon­ies, the Clev­e­land, Min­nesota, Phil­adelphia, Bud­apest Fest­ival and Rus­sian National Orches­tras; and a per­form­ance tele­vised world­wide with the Ber­lin Phil­har­monic and Sir Simon Rattle. He is also a reg­u­lar guest at fest­ivals such as Alde­burgh, Aspen, Blos­som, Edin­burgh, Hol­ly­wood Bowl, Mostly Moz­art, Ravinia, Salzburg, Tangle­wood, and the BBC Proms, where he has made over 20 appear­ances and per­formed the com­plete Tchaikovsky con­cer­tos over four pro­grams, a series he later per­formed with the Chicago Sym­phony Orches­tra at Orches­tra Hall.

In the 2012–13 sea­son Mr Hough gives recit­als in Bel­fast, Ber­lin, Dub­lin, Milan, Mon­tréal, Paris, St. Paul, Stock­holm, Van­couver, and at Carne­gie Hall in March. His orches­tral per­form­ances in the United States also include appear­ances with con­ductor Thomas Daus­gaard and the Hou­s­ton Sym­phony, Charles Dutoit and the Boston Sym­phony, Hannu Lintu and the Bal­timore Sym­phony Orches­tra, and Pablo Heras-Casado and the San Fran­cisco Sym­phony. He is the Artist-in-Residence with the BBC Sym­phony per­form­ing three con­cer­tos and a recital at the Bar­bican in Lon­don. This sea­son he will première his Piano Son­ata, No. 2 not­turno luminoso, jointly com­mis­sioned by the Schubert Club in St. Paul, the Van­couver Recital Soci­ety, the Swansea Fest­ival of Music and Arts, and the Uni­ver­sity of Not­ting­ham Lakeside Arts Centre.

The Brit­ish clas­sical label Hyper­ion Records will release two new albums by Mr Hough this sea­son. The first, titled “Stephen Hough’s French Album,” fea­tures works for solo piano by Fauré, Ravel, Debussy, Poulenc as well as Mr Hough’s own arrange­ment of works by Massenet and Delibes. Part of an ongo­ing explor­a­tion of Cent­ral European piano con­cer­tos, Mr Hough’s second album fea­tures Brahms’ Piano Con­cer­tos, Nos. 1 and 2 recor­ded with Mark Wiggles­worth and the Salzburg Moz­ar­teum Orches­tra. Through­out the months of Octo­ber and Novem­ber London’s Broad­bent Gal­lery will present an exhib­i­tion of Mr Hough’s paint­ings. The exhibit, titled “Appas­sionato,” will be the first dis­play of Mr Hough’s art­work fea­tur­ing fif­teen abstract paint­ings in acrylic dat­ing from 2007 to the present day.

In the 2011–2012 sea­son Mr Hough premiered his Piano Son­ata No. 1 Broken Branches at London’s Wig­more Hall before per­form­ing it at Orches­tra Hall in Chicago and Lin­coln Center’s Mostly Moz­art Fest­ival in New York. He was also the fea­tured soloist at St. Louis Symphony’s two-week Rach­maninoff Fest­ival, and he played the Saint-Saëns Piano Con­certo, No. 5 with the Pitt­s­burgh Sym­phony. In 2011 Mr Hough took part in an eight-city, ten-concert tour as part of Australia’s Musica Viva con­cert series. In the same year he joined Osmo Vän­skä and the Min­nesota Orches­tra at Carne­gie Hall for Tchaikovsky’s Piano Con­certo, No. 1, and he per­formed Tchaikovsky’s Piano Con­certo, No. 2 with Vas­ily Pet­renko and the Phil­adelphia Orches­tra. He also gave four con­certs as the Artist-in-Residence at Wig­more Hall, and received an hon­or­ary doc­tor­ate from the Uni­ver­sity of Liverpool.

A Hyper­ion record­ing artist, many of Mr Hough’s cata­logue of over 50 albums have garnered inter­na­tional prizes includ­ing the Deutsche Schall­plat­ten­preis, Diapason d’Or, Monde de la Musique, sev­eral Grammy nom­in­a­tions, and eight Gramo­phone Magazine Awards includ­ing ‘Record of the Year’ in 1996 and 2003, and the Gramo­phone ‘Gold Disc’ Award in 2008, which named his com­plete Saint-Saëns Piano Con­cer­tos as the best record­ing of the past 30 years. His 2005 live record­ing of the Rach­maninoff Piano Con­cer­tos became the fast­est selling record­ing in Hyperion’s his­tory, while his 1987 record­ing of the Hum­mel con­cer­tos remains Chan­dos’ best-selling disc to date. His most recent releases are the piano con­cer­tos of Grieg and Liszt with Andrew Lit­ton and the Ber­gen Phil­har­monic Orches­tra (2011), “Broken Branches: Com­pos­i­tions by Stephen Hough” (2011), and “The Prince Con­sort: Other Love Songs” released in 2011 by Linn Records fea­tur­ing new com­pos­i­tions by Mr Hough, an album that BBC Music Magazine called “a new song cycle of out­stand­ing achieve­ment.” His record­ing of the com­plete Chopin Waltzes was named win­ner of Diapason d’Or de l’Année 2011.

Mr Hough’s com­pos­i­tions include cham­ber, choral, sym­phonic, instru­mental and solo piano works. In April 2012 con­ductor Nich­olas McGegan led the Indi­ana­polis Sym­phony and Chorus in the first per­form­ance of the orches­trated ver­sion of Mr Hough’s Missa Mirabilis, a work ori­gin­ally writ­ten for London’s West­min­ster Cathed­ral Choir. His Mass of Inno­cence and Exper­i­ence was premiered by the West­min­ster Abbey Choir at a con­cert com­mem­or­at­ing the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wil­liam Blake. Mr Hough’s cello con­certo The Lone­li­est Wil­der­ness was premiered by Steven Isser­lis and the Royal Liv­er­pool Phil­har­monic in 2007. His trio, Was mit den Tranen geschieht, com­mis­sioned by mem­bers of the Ber­lin Phil­har­monic, received its world première at the Ber­lin Phil­har­monie in 2009. A string sex­tet, Requiem Aeternum: after Vic­toria, was com­mis­sioned by the for their major autumn 2009 exhib­i­tion, The Sac­red Made Real: Span­ish Paint­ing and Sculp­ture 1600–1700. Mr Hough’s com­pos­i­tions are pub­lished by Josef Wein­ber­ger Ltd.

In addi­tion Mr Hough is an avid writer. He has writ­ten for London’s The Guard­ian, The Times, and was invited by the Tele­graph Media Group in Decem­ber 2008 to write a cul­tural blog that receives ten to 15 thou­sand hits every week. He has writ­ten extens­ively about theo­logy, res­ult­ing in The Bible as Prayer, pub­lished by Con­tinuüm and Paul­ist Press in 2007. The book is a hand­book for Lec­tio Divina with a com­pil­a­tion of Scrip­ture verses to be used for med­it­a­tion. Cur­rently a res­id­ent of Lon­don, Mr Hough is a vis­it­ing pro­fessor at the Royal Academy of Music in Lon­don and holds the Inter­na­tional Chair of Piano Stud­ies at his alma mater, the Royal North­ern Col­lege in Manchester.


  One Response to “Stephen Hough answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Musicians’ Edition”

  1. […] was asked recently to do one of those ques­tion­naire inter­views – and here it is, by Gra­ham Spicer. They are fun to answer and require some thought but vir­tu­ally no effort. The […]

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