BSO Series 2014 — Stephen Hough Piano Recital | Bangkok Post: Lifestyle


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BSO Series 2014 — Stephen Hough Piano Recital


Period:08 Sep 2014 - 08 Sep 2014

Address:14, Ratchadaphisek Rd., Huai Khwang, Huai Khwang, Bangkok 10310 Thailand

Tel:+662-262-3456, +662-254-4954, +662-255-6617/8

Service day:Monday, Service hours: 20:00-00:00

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Official description

After his well-received Rachmaninov and Lutoslawski concerto performances with the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra last year, concert pianist Stephen Hough returns with an extended programme of Chopin and Debussy solo works on Sept 8.

Held as part of the BSO Series 2014, the “Stephen Hough Piano Recital” will take place at the Thailand Cultural Centre, at 8pm.

The four Chopin Ballades that make up the central core of the recital represent one of the most challenging pinnacles of the Romantic repertoire.

Hough’s ability to interpret the Chopin’s oeuvre is without question — his recording of the complete Chopin Waltzes won the prestigious Diapason d’Or de l’Année award in 2011.

The sublime world of Debussy will start the evening with La Plus Que Lente, and continues with masterpieces Estampes and Children’s Corner, contained within the gorgeous Jardins Sous La Pluie (Gardens In The Rain) and the more jovial Golliwogg’s Cakewalk, respectively.

The other bookend of Hough’s concert is L’isle Joyeuse (The Happy Island), which will round things off in suitably ecstatic fashion.

Hough is one of today’s elite and most sought after pianists.

He also flourishes in several other disciplines, with recognised contributions in the fields of composing, writing and abstract painting.

He won the Sixth International Poetry Competition in 2006.

Tickets cost 400, 800, 1,200, 1,600 and 2,000 baht and can be purchased from Thai Ticket Major (visit or ca


Editorial Reviews

It has taken 15 months, but Stephen Hough is finally giving Bangkok an encore. Rather, the great British pianist is giving a dozen-odd encores after his triumphant performance of the Rachmaninoff and Lutuslawski Paganini variations last year.

Hough is here on Sept 8 not for a single work but an entire evening of piano-playing, devoted to a pair of his favourite composers, Frederic Chopin and Claude-Achille Debussy.

Not that Hough has been resting on his laurels. After all, as a man rated by The Economist alongside Umberto Eco and Noam Chomsky as being among the most multi-talented people in the world, Hough is hardly a slouch when away from the piano.

He is an accomplished painter (his abstracts have been exhibited internationally), a composer (whose works are performed by his admiring peers), a poet (who wins serious international poetry competitions), an academic (visiting professor of piano at London’s Academy of Music and at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester), and a manager (he was elected to be governor of London’s Royal Ballet Companies).

If that isn’t “whew-worthy”, he has time for both spiritual and moral ventures, some of which are contradictory. As a convert to the Roman Catholic faith, he is fervently opposed to their stand on homosexuality and fights for gay rights both in Britain and abroad. He is also in the forefront of bringing music to hospitals, feeling that the spiritual/body balance is most natural.

Yet above all, Hough is a pianist whose repertoire and diversity and — most of all — his curiosity in music of all kinds has given the world a new vision.

Most pianists will offer programmes drawn from the usual standards, with perhaps one quirky work thrown in. But perhaps Hough would be bored with such presentations, since his concerts pointedly include music rarely heard.

His concertos, for instance, did take in the standards this year (Tchaikovsky, Liszt and Rachmaninoff), but he includes rare concerti by Saint-Saëns, Mendelssohn and Dvorák.

In his recitals, he dares to go extreme. Who, for instance, would programme Anton Bruckner, Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner on a piano recital? Who even knew they wrote piano music?

Hough has scheduled these rarities, as well as Schoenberg, Brahms, Schumann, his own music and the very rarely performed Dvorák Piano Concerto.

His schedule, both in Britain, Europe, the US and Asia is packed to the gills, yet Hough, in his words (both spoken and in his blogs) and music (extremely highly reviewed new recordings of Chopin and Debussy) have that quality of being both clear and illuminating.

Missing, though, in Hough’s massive curriculum vitae is that he, along with pianist Jeremy Denk and New Yorker critic Alex Ross, describes music in the most vivid, knowledgeable and incisive non-theoretical manner.

At his last performance in Bangkok, he performed the Rachmaninoff Paganini Variations. He has described, on YouTube, the most beautiful, bar-for-bar analysis of why this music is so wonderful to him, why his performances at the Proms are so important.

But he is equally graphic about the music he will play in Bangkok in September. Half the programme is devoted to Debussy, and his column in London’s Daily Telegraph gives an indication of his affection.

Debussy was so utterly French, writes Hough “that one can see the nicotine fingers with a clenched squashed butt of a Gitanes cigarette. In sex, Debussy had a tumbling celebration of it. (In contrast to Ravel’s secretive celibacy, desire imprisoned behind the vertical bars of his fastidious cleanliness repelling intimacy)”.

Yet “behind Debussy’s beard, carelessly trimmed, hiding the loose folds of flesh underneath, we come to the music. Unlike Ravel, Debussy could never be mistaken as a timekeeper. Many of his pieces could lose their barlines or time-signatures without losing their way”.

“With Ravel, you can always see each individual drop of rain. Debussy invites us to look at the garden behind, blurred by the moisture.” And does Chopin — for whom half the recital is dedicated — relate at all to the music of Claude-Achille Debussy?

“Oh,” Hough recently told Jeremy Nicholas of Gramophone magazine, “Chopin was incredibly forward-looking.

“He was fascinated with harmonies. Before him, harmonies were accompaniments, or they had to be used for structural purposes. But Chopin would take the possibilities of harmonies, and then twist them around.

“The result was that for the first time, harmony by itself was used for its colour, for its impressions. In a way, he was not a Romantic, but an Impressionist.”

Hough’s love for Chopin allows him to see Chopin as a man for all periods.

“He was,” says Hough, “the opposite of that other pianist, Franz Liszt. Liszt loved performing, adulation, love affairs. Chopin was a fussy little man who couldn’t relate emotionally to women at all. In fact, his only long relationship was with George Sand, who dressed as a man.

“And Chopin didn’t like performing in the concert hall at all. He preferred the salon.

“In a way, the music was a tension between Romantic and Classical, especially in the Ballades.”

Hough explains that, while the four Ballades which he will play in Bangkok seem to have their own wild adventures in harmony and melody, Chopin actually gives them a sonata form: themes, development of themes and then return to the originals.

Finally, he says, Chopin looks forward to the most avant-garde music of our own time.

“He didn’t need to write symphonies or operas, and his concertos are not his best music at all. He can concentrate in two minutes the kind of music which other composers needed hours to do. In that way, he was like Anton Webern.”

Stephen Hough credits Chopin’s originality to one controversial factor. He simply didn’t have much of an education.

“He never went to a conservatory. His two teachers were not very distinguished. Unlike Schumann and Liszt, he had not the slightest interest in art or literature or poetry.

“Instead, he knew exactly what he wanted to do, he understood his own melodies and harmonies and he followed his instincts.

“He appeals to pianists because the music is so gorgeously written, every note is so carefully judged.

“And it appeals to audiences as he captures the heart in a way which is almost impossible to grasp.”

Hough’s talents are so multifarious, and his personality so genial (as Bangkok discovered a year ago last June) that interviewers sometimes don’t know quite where to begin.

But at a live interview held in Lincoln Center, which I attended last year, he was given a single question that actually puzzled him for a few seconds.

“What, Stephen,” asked the interlocutor, “is your most prized possession?”

Hough wrinkled his brow, his eyes, gleamed and he had the answer.

“My sanity,” he said. “If I still have it.”

- ‘Stephen Hough Piano Recital’ is on at Thailand Cultural Centre’s Main Hall at 8pm on Sept 8.- Tickets cost 400-2,000 baht and are available at all Thai Ticket Major outlets or Visit the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra Foundation at or call 02-255-6617/8 or 02-254-4954.


14, Ratchadaphisek Rd., Huai Khwang, Huai Khwang, Bangkok 10310 Thailand

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