15 August 2019, The Tablet

Music is a human heart


Rough Ideas: Reflections on Music and More
Stephen Hough
(FABER & FABER, 464 PP, £18.99)
Tablet bookshop price £17.10 • tel 020 7799 4064

I happen to know – I will not go into details – that the pianist, composer, writer and polymath Stephen Hough is a fan of both encores and cakes. Actually his predilection for the former is well known and best shared live, when the mischievous Hough will follow a mighty concerto with the merest will-o’-the-wisp by Mompou, or a Debussy piece you thought irredeemably hackneyed (Clair de lune brought to fresh and starry-eyed life).

Hough, in other words, as well as being one of the world’s most eminent concert pianists, is a hedonist with a sense of fun. The sheer enjoyment he finds in music is one of the strongest themes in this book of miscellaneous musings, essays, sleeve notes – encores if you like. He manages to enjoy not just performing but also the painful art of recording. The book will be very useful for practising and aspiring pianists, and includes advice on practical matters such as how to play trills (evenness is more important than speed) and how to avoid tension.

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