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Renaissance Man Stephen Hough

Posted at 5:15 PM on February 22, 2008 by Fred Child (2 Comments)

Sure, he's a scintillating, emotive pianist. Sure, he's officially a genius. (Winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, better known as a "Genius Grant.") Yes, he's becoming a fine composer. Yes, he's a thoughtful (and sometimes provocative) essayist and author on a wide range of topics, from music to theology.

But now he's a prize-winning poet, too?

Indeed. Hough's poem Early Rose won the annual poetry competition on the website First Writer. (see a bit of Hough's prize winning poem below, or click on the title above for the entire poem.)

Stephen Hough is a wonderful pianist -- but you can say the same about hundreds of others. Hough has become a favorite of mine in recent years, though. For the power and subtlety of his playing, you bet. But more for how much of himself he shares. It's fairly common for classical musicians (and all the more common for classical stars) to try to limit what we know of them to a chilly bio and a series of album photos. Hough is quite open about weaknesses, about moments when he's deeply questioned his career choice as a touring musician. About battling ego issues. Fighting his nerves. And overcoming moments when he says he fails to reach his own high standards. Check out the "writings" section of his website. Hearing him talk so openly and honestly about his vulnerabilities opens me to his art.

And...by the way, Hough's prize-winning poem may be starting a pianist vs. pianist feud...the sharp-witted pianist and classical blogger Jeremy Denk has challenged Stephen Hough to a "pianist vs. pianist poetry slam smackdown." Sure to be broadcast on a future edition of Performance Today.

excerpt from "Early Rose"
by Stephen Hough

...To the garden, awake,
Tiptoe, quick, go
Slick-stairs down the
Steps to the pre-dew
Night morn before the
Dawn's birth is born.
Follow to the foliage where,
Hidden as the future's
Fall or rise, the rose --
Petals closed -- will bud-burst
A billion atoms of beauty...

Comments ( 2 )

Mr. Child-

Heard ur program a day or so ago in which u spoke about Giuseppe Guarneri, known as del Gesù, of Jesus. U will notice the accent on the letter u, meaninig it is pronounced jeh-SU, not JEH-su. Same in Spanish, Jesús.

Otherwise, a flawless performance by u. Always enjoy ur program which is heard here in Virginia Beach in the evening on WHRO.

Thank u for always entertaining me and letting me see things about the performers and what they perform that would not usually be known.


Ramón Báez MD

Posted by Ramón Báez MD | February 23, 2008 8:28 AM

Hurray! Space for Dr. Child's commentary definitely is a plus, despite the loss of the erudition and wit of your copy authors. The context of a composition is so important when introducing it, and every little tittle assists our enjoyment.

Wednesdays are the days for sheer floundering wonderment, during that provocative, evocative, pervocative and finally disambiguated Puzzler. They have gotten to a very high level, and daunt even the most courageous amateurs. Will there ever be a championship Jeopardy level Puzzler competition?

We salute former Oregonian Fred. Keep your mukluks dry.

Posted by Paul Mack | February 27, 2008 5:08 PM

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