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Published: Wednesday, 4/30/2008

Pianist Stephen Hough, in Toledo recital Friday, also is a noted writer and poet

BY SALLY VALLONGO
BLADE STAFF WRITER

In a time when musicians increasingly are multi-taskers, British pianist Stephen Hough shows how to do it with intelligence and depth.

Toledo audiences will get a chance to hear this internationally renowned keyboard artist in recital at 8 p.m. Friday in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle, the fourth and final Peristyle Visiting Artist Series event of the current Toledo Symphony season.

No stranger to area audiences - Hough has performed in Toledo and Bowling Green several times in the past decade - this award-winning musician brings a fresh program sampling several centuries of fine piano music.

His program includes Mendelssohn's Variations Serieuses, Op. 54, Beethoven's Sonata in C Minor, Op. 111, Weber's Invitation to the Dance, Op. 65, and Webern's Variations, Op. 27.

Other composers represented include Chopin, Saint-Saens, Chabrier, Debussy, and Liszt. There may well be an encore, too - perhaps something by Spaniard Federico Mompou (1893-1987) Hough's favorite 20th-century composer.

And if Hough (pronounced "Huff") lives up to his hype, the recital will be refined, insightful, technically brilliant, and very personal.

Such is the style of this impressive English musician and Juilliard School graduate who began winning awards - the 1983 Naumburg International for emerging artists - almost as soon as he began performing. He has continued to garner top honors, including the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize from Northwestern University in 2007. He has won seven Grammy Awards for his body of 40 recordings.

He'll repeat his Toledo program on May 6 in Kalamazoo, Mich., where the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, one of the newest and most glittering piano extravaganzas in the United States, just began a 20-day series of performances, master classes, workshops, and other events led by some of the world's most famous and innovative artists.

Like other artists on the Gilmore roster - Bobby McFerrin, Audra McDonald, Chick Corea, and Dick Hyman, among others - Hough has eschewed a life limited strictly by work on the 88 keys of his piano.

In fact, the keyboard seems to have served Hough as a springboard for many creative endeavors such as musical composition, prose and poetry, philosophy, and spiritual formation.

For a 2007 celebration of the work of British mystic and poet William Blake in Westminster Abbey, Hough composed Mass of Innocence and Experience, a setting of select verse by Blake. He has published a line of music that includes original works for piano, voice, and chamber and choral ensembles, as well as transcriptions of new works that catch his ear. He has collaborated with Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, on several works.

Hough's ability to apply his innate creativity to various media won him the MacArthur Fellowship in 2001. He used the prize to expand practice and performance opportunities in London, where he lives when he's not in New York City or on the road.

From liner notes for his recordings to essays about travel and work to poetry, Hough's literary chops are as facile as his fingers flying over a keyboard. His new lectionary, The Bible as Prayer, has received strong positive reviews.

A poem of his won FirstWriter Magazine's sixth international competition.

Here's a sample.

Early Rose

The world is

Asleep - sleeping

In those leapless

Limbless hours

When powers fail, save

The billion slopes which

Rise and rose and fall

In a billion breaths on their

Beds of repose.

For the entire piece and runners up, visit this site: http://www.firstwriter.com/competitions/poetry_competition/previous_winners/6thpoetry.shtml

Tickets for the Stephen Hough recital are $22 to $45 through the Toledo Symphony; call 419-246-8000 or visit www.toledosymphony.com.

Contact Sally Vallongo at svallongo@theblade.com.



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