(Reprise of a post from March, brought back for our Music and Literature week)
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?
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...
I want front-row seats for the piano-poetry-smackdown. I will stand in line all night if I have to. I wonder if there will be hats...
Posted by Claire | May 30, 2008 8:20 AM