Some critics have called Steven Hough “the world’s greatest pianist.” He is certainly one of the most exciting artists on the contemporary music scene. Hough’s talents do not end there. In the past year, he has made impressive strides as a composer. Hough premiered two Mass settings at London’s Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral. His Cello Concerto (The Loneliest Wilderness) was premiered by his friend Steven Isserlis with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Hough’s baton. Is a major conducting career far off? Hough has also written books and essays on music and Catholicism. Still, his pianistic brilliance continually astounds. In early December, 2007, Hough joined the Miami based New World Symphony (appropriately dubbed America’s Orchestral Academy) and conductor Mark Wigglesworth for Brahms’ Concerto No.1 in D minor. He gave the kind of demonstration of old fashioned; fire breathing keyboard virtuosity that has not been heard since the days of Vladimir Horowitz. He brought stormy grandeur to the opening Maestoso, tempered by an array of pianistic coloration that made the music sound new, as if experienced for the first time. In the Adagio, Hough’s phrasing elucidated the long arc of eloquence inherent in Brahms’ writing but rarely brought to fruition in performance. The fast tempo and remarkable accuracy and precision of Hough’s cascading arpeggios radiated joy and intense romantic fervor in the final Rondo. No matter what era the score Hough plays belongs to, he is the ultimate romantic. His Brahms was of the most incendiary variety. Maybe “world’s greatest pianist” is not an exaggeration after all!


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