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World-renowned pianist and composer Sir Stephen Hough visits Trinity Laban

Mon 15 April 2024

We were delighted to welcome Sir Stephen Hough (CBE) to Trinity Laban this March for a set of masterclasses and a brilliant performance of his Song Cycles alongside our students and Head of Keyboard, Dr Ji Liu.

This year’s Keyboard and Voice Festival: Coming Together! celebrated the rich tapestry of vocal and keyboard music, embracing essential works from the core-classical territories as well as dynamic works of contemporary British Composers and those from beyond our shores.

Our final concert featured acclaimed artist Stephen Hough, our Head of Keyboard Dr Ji Liu, and Trinity Laban piano and voice students performing an afternoon concert of Stephen’s song cycles. The concert featured the complete collection: Dappled Things, Herbstlieder, Lady Antonia’s Songs, Songs of Love and Loss, Songs of Isolation, and Other Love Songs, described by Bachtrack as “witty, intricate, intimate and beautifully arresting art songs”.

Discussing his visit, Stephen commented: “It’s been a wonderful couple of days. We’ve had 31 students in all working on these song cycles, so more or less a different student for each song. There’s a huge variety, but everyone really did their best and performed beautifully. There were a few performances that were really spectacular in the way that the students got inside the text and the song, and absolutely lived that song whilst they were singing, and that is what you are ultimately looking for. The songs are brief. The longest one is maybe five minutes, but in this time, a whole world can be uncovered and I think they got that and it was thrilling.”

“I don’t play with singers very much, so putting words and music together is a whole different level of emotional involvement. I’m very moved by songs. Many of the texts that I chose are very deep human emotions – as deep as it gets – about what life means, what love means. To have that and to work with the students with that is very touching and I actually had to hold back a tear or two during the concert.”

Our Head of Keyboard, Dr Ji Liu, stated: “It’s been a wonderful journey and Stephen has been such a wonderful motivator and role model to all of us. Every time I work with Stephen, he’s very generous with his comments and time, and he’s also very encouraging and very open with performing his work. It’s quite nerve-wracking for performers to play a composer’s work in front of a composer. This time, for me, it’s like that when playing together with Stephen! But it’s been wonderful, it’s been a memorable experience for me and all of our students.”

About Stephen Hough

One of the most distinctive artists of his generation, Sir Stephen Hough (CBE) combines a distinguished career as a pianist with those of composer and writer.

Named by The Economist as one of Twenty Living Polymaths, Hough was the first classical performer to be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (2001). He has been awarded a multitude of awards and prizes, including the Royal Philharmonic Society Instrumentalist Award and first prize at the Naumburg Competition in New York. Sir Stephen has appeared with most of the major European, Asian and American orchestras and plays recitals regularly in major halls and concert series around the world from London’s Royal Festival Hall to New York’s Carnegie Hall. He has been a regular guest at festivals, including Tanglewood, Verbier, and the BBC Proms, where he has made 29 concerto appearances.

Many of his catalogue of over 60 albums have garnered international prizes including eight Gramophone Magazine Awards including ‘Record of the Year’, several Grammy nominations, and the Gramophone ‘Gold Disc’ Award in 2008, which named his complete Saint-Saens Piano Concertos as the best recording of the past 30 years. His 2012 recording of the complete Chopin Waltzes received the Diapason d’Or de l’Annee, France’s most prestigious recording award. His 2005 live recording of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concertos was the fastest selling recording in Hyperion’s history, while his 1987 recording of the Hummel concertos remains Chandos’ best-selling disc to date.

Published by Josef Weinberger, Sir Stephen has composed works for orchestra, choir, chamber ensemble, organ, harpsichord and solo piano. He has been commissioned by the prestigious organisations including the Cliburn, the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet, and Wigmore Hall, among others. A noted writer, Sir Stephen has contributed articles for The New York Times, the Guardian, The Times, Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine, and he wrote a blog for The Telegraph for seven years which became one of the most popular and influential forums for cultural discussion and for which he wrote over six hundred articles. He has published four books: The Bible as Prayer, a novel The Final Retreat, a book of essays Rough Ideas: Reflections on Music and More, a memoir Enough: Scenes from Childhood.

Sir Stephen is an Honorary Fellow of Cambridge University’s Girton College, an honorary member of the RPS, and holds the International Chair of Piano Studies at his alma mater, the Royal Northern College in Manchester. He is also a member of the faculty at The Juilliard School.