Stephen Hough: Vida Breve

RECORDING OF THE MONTH • by ANDREW EALES
Showcasing an inspiring recent piano recording.


“Vida breve” – life is short. Ah yes, and don’t we all know it!

But pianist Stephen Hough has crammed an improbable amount into his 59 years. Indeed, if there’s a piano artist in the UK today who deserves the accolade “polymath” it’s surely Hough; in addition to his much-in-demand concert appearances and illustrious recording career, he is well respected as a composer, commentator, writer and novelist.

Reminding us of his truly formidable pianism, Hough is back with a new recording on the Hyperion label, effectively a ‘recital-in-the-studio’ comprising virtuoso works by Bach/Busoni, Chopin, Liszt and Hough’s own Piano Sonata No.4 ‘Vida Breve’.

The leitmotif running through the programme is death, but when Hough sat down in front of the Yamaha CFX concert grand in St Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town in December 2018 to make this recording, none knew that by the time of its release more than two years later, a global pandemic would have made the spectre of death a more imminent and vivid reality to so many.

If Hough’s choice of programme didn’t immediately entice me, it’s still more to his credit that in a month that saw several exceptional CD releases, Vida Breve takes the title Recording of the Month. Let’s find out why…

Continue reading Stephen Hough: Vida Breve

Music of our Youth

PATHWAYS FOR LIVING • by ANDREW EALES
Setting our piano journey in its living context.


“When I was growing up my parents used to take me to the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, and I remember hearing a recital by Alfred Brendel there in the late 1970s. He played the Schubert G major Sonata … Brendel’s style was so different from the keyboard giants of the past, but it opened my eyes to Schubert and made me understand the greatness of that kind of serious playing…

Brendel made recordings of the last series of Schubert sonatas, including the G major Sonata released in 2001. Nothing moves me more than those particular Schubert sonatas. I’ve played the B flat Sonata often over the years, and its second movement is so affecting that I find it hard to move onto the third movement. It’s as though everything has been said, and we should all go home.”

Stephen Hough: International Piano, May/June 2010


It fascinates me that our memories of music discovered in our youth can so powerfully impact our ongoing appreciation of music in later life, whether as listeners or performers.

Like Stephen Hough, I can well remember several “light-bulb moments” where music freshly heard in my younger years left a reverberating impact that I can still feel acutely today. When I mentally list the names of the great composers, how often my “favourite” pieces by them are those I first discovered.

Here in the Eales household, we listen to a staggering variety of music, from classical to bluegrass, and from jazz to ambient electronic. But whenever a pop song from the 1970s or 80s comes on the radio, my wife will sing along, and can remember all the words – another reminder that the music of our youth will often be the lasting treasure that vastly overshadows our subsequent musical journey.

As parents, teachers and performers, let’s be especially diligent in choosing the music we introduce to the children in our lives, considering its quality and permanent value, and knowing that this music more than any other will inform and hopefully enrich their whole musical future.

Do you have special memories of music discovered when you were young? Feel free to share by leaving a comment below.


PIANODAO is free to access and ad-free thanks to
generous DONATIONS from readers like you.
Supporters are welcome to join THE TEA ROOM.



Stephen Hough: No More Loo Breaks?

Stephen Hough is rightly fêted not only as one of our greatest classical concert artists, but as an erudite and thoughtful writer. So it is no surprise that his recent piece “No more loo breaks” (published in the Radio Times, 20-26 August 2016 edition, no full online version) has attracted a lot of attention in the media and provoked plenty of debate online.

The reporting and discussion of his article has focussed on just the headline point from what is in any case a fairly short comment piece.

Reading his comments in their intended context clarifies the questions to be addressed, and Hough is to be applauded for setting a positive and stimulating debate in motion.

Continue reading Stephen Hough: No More Loo Breaks?