An original pianist is 60 today

An original pianist is 60 today


norman lebrecht

November 21, 2021

My near-neighbour Stephen Hough has much to celebrate. He’s firing on all fronts as pianist, composer, painter, writer.

Fiona Maddocks has a lovely interview with him in the Observer.




  • Frank Flambeau says:

    He’s a terrific pianist, composer, and human being. Well done, Maestro.

  • Kyle A Wiedmeyer says:

    He was supposed to perform Mendelssohn’s First concerto here in Milwaukee to help celebrate our new hall’s opening season but, of course, COVID took care of that for us. It’s shame since he’s quite a great pianist and a noted interpreter of that piece.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      I recall hearing him perform with the Milwaukee Symphony some years ago — memory is getting faulty but it may well have been the Saint-Saëns “Egyptian” Concerto, one of my favorites, and too rarely trotted out. His recording of two Hummel piano concertos is masterful and really makes the best possible case for that composer and those works.

  • Nick2 says:

    Wishing you the happiest of birthdays, Stephen. One of today’s finest pianists and no mean author either.

  • Salmon en croute says:

    It’s Stephen’s birthday today, 22nd.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    ==I only spend 10 minutes on lunch.

    Apparently Previn was like that, food was just fuel for him.

    A great interview

    • Douglas says:

      This doesn’t quite square with Stephen’s many delightful pictures on Twitter of (sometimes elaborate) dinners in the evening from various restaurants on his tours.

  • John Borstlap says:

    That Mr Hough thinks that the 1st WTK prelude better be performed as the tasteless, ridiculous Gounod thing reveals everything of the man, and explains the level of his own compositions. People should refrain from doing the thing they are not suited for.

    • SAB says:

      and your comment reveals everything of you.

    • La plus belle voix says:

      Like you refrain from tolerance?

    • J. says:

      Covid killed the wrong people, I’m afraid.

    • Paul Carlile says:

      I’d be surprose if Stephen Hough thunk it “better” to play WTK Prelude 1 in Gonod’s trinscraption; he’s just having fun and giving us another angle on the piece! Many of his encores & bonbons are witty and unpretentious, as here. Personally i’ve always rather loke the Goonoud addition, (which obviously says a lot about my taste!).
      Beast rearguards.

      • Maria says:

        Good for you. I quite agree. Doesn’t mean we are second-rate musicians. Just means we are unpretentious. I know Stephen, and that’s exactly what he’d do – have fun, and offer something a bit different to get people out of their stupid and arrogant boxes.

      • John Borstlap says:

        An encore is not the thing that is supposed to be enshrined on video for posterity….

        • Paul Carlile says:

          Whyever not? How much poorer we’d be without certain legendary frivolous, irreverent, fluffy, witty… or simply jaw-dropping encores from…. Horowitz, Rubinstein, Cherkassky (a true master of the genre- an art form in itself), Yuja, Hamelin and, indeed, Hough! “Enshrined” videos to treasure!

    • Ruby Yacht says:

      Judge much? Just one piece from one performance. He also recorded Mompou, so what does that say?

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Happy birthday, Stephen. Great pianist and the closest we have to an accessible renaissance man.

  • Rob says:

    He’s one of the greats and a really nice person, Happy Birthday!

    • Stephen Harding says:

      You can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat staff in shops. I used to work in London’s largest sheet music shop and Stephen was a regular customer there. He was always friendly and polite, a really nice person in addition to being a wonderful pianist. I’ve met him a few times since and he’s always been just the same. Happy birthday, Stephen!

      • John Borstlap says:

        It would be interesting to have a research project with performers doing normal stuff like buying their daily commodities and measure their humanity according to how they treat staff. A chart could be designed with references to their interpretations, with marks, and we would get to know the inner workings of the musical mind.

        How did performers treat staff in shops in the past? According to the Grout History of Music:

        Mozart – never entering a shop and having his wife or friends do the shopping (‘too busy’)

        Beethoven – always getting the wrong item, not understanding explanations

        Chopin – being rude and picky and calling staff ‘dirty jews’

        Paganini – trying to escape paying

        Von Bülow – arrogantly insisting on paying later & then forgetting

        Brahms – incapable of finding the right shop, later in life having Frau Truxa doing the shopping but paying her generously

        Mahler – quarreling with Alma at the shop entrance and driving staff to despair with changing demands all the time while Alma was waiting outside in the rain

        Kreisler – trying to pay with playing a ditty at the counter

        Horowitz – never found an item that pleased him and returning things afer a day and asking his money back

        Etc. etc.

  • mchaley says:

    if only his record label allowed streaming, I thought he had stopped recording. Qobuz has great quality, higher than importing a cd, we no longer have cd players in our cars, get with the times. love him.

  • Maria says:

    Who cares about Gounod or whoever WTK happens to be. A great pianist and a lovely kind man. Glad he didn’t end up as a Catholic priest or we would have missed out an awful lot in the music world.

  • John Borstlap says:

    I love this thing! I always wondered why the supposed original only consisted of the accompaniment. I’m SURE the guy who wrote it forgot the melody.


    • Paul Carlile says:

      Sally, you are so right! The original guy was barking up the wrong triad. I’m happy that Goonod honored Harvey Marrier. (Must’ve been a nice guy too!).
      Sally forth and applaud!

  • christopher storey says:

    Happy Birthday and Many Happy Returns. A great and sensitive pianist who although he possesses technique in abundance, never puts it above musicality

  • Ruby Yacht says:

    He was on a benefit program with my father, who was talented, but no great pianist, and he said very fine compliments to him, a real gentleman. I met him after a concert in NYC, and thought he seemed very shy.

  • Margaret Koscielny says:

    The remarks below about Back/Gounod “AveMaria” are ridiculous. It is a popular violin piece. Not my favorite piece to play as a young student, but, certainly, an acceptable encore piece for a violin.

    Hough is a great pianist. His Liszt is perfect!

  • Una says:

    Another nice in-depth interview but much earlier on, with WNIB Classical 97 radio presenter Bruce Duffie when Stephen was playing in Chicago. Worth a read.

  • Gary Freer says:

    wonderful recording of late Brahms pieces. Any person who carries such gifts and accomplishment with modesty and grace deserves our admiration.

  • Mark Mortimer says:

    Happy birthday Stephen- a great artist. Personally- I adore his transcription of Bach/Gounod. Confectionary maybe but delicious nonetheless.