Multitalented Pianist Stephen Hough Brings Poetry To The Eugene Symphony

By Suzi Steffen

The Eugene Symphony concert program at 8 pm on Thursday, Nov. 17 (that’s tomorrow!) features a wide mix of music, from student composers to a well known soloist to a symphony that was written after the terrible events of the Hungarian uprising in 1956.

I can’t quite say it’s “something for everyone,” but the program is pretty darn interesting.

The night kicks off in the Silva Concert Hall with an “Ode to the Future” – a nine-minute piece by five young Oregon composers who, under the guidance of the University of Oregon’s Robert Kyr, took Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” theme from the 9th Symphony and reworked it into something for the 21st century. “Their approach to Beethoven has been respectful and yet celebratory,” Kyr said in a press release from the Symphony.

Pianist Stephen Hough – that’s “Huff,” U.S. English speakers – is a Renaissance man, or so his publicity says. He’s got a solo piano career, obviously, but he also writes books – nonfiction and now a forthcoming novel – and spent seven years writing a blog about the arts for the British newspaper The Telegraph. He’s a painter and a poet, and he won a MacArthur “Genius” Grant in 2001. He’ll be playing another Beethoven piece, the Piano Concert No. 3, which is both famous and deeply gorgeous.

We’re hoping to get a short Q&A with Hough up later in the day, but whether or not that happens, do check out this great video from 2015, when he played all of the Beethoven piano concertos in Singapore.

After intermission, or interval as the British call it – a break in the music that Hough recently called to abolish – the Symphony presents Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11, or The Year 1905. This performance of it from the BBC Proms in 2013 includes an intro that tells some of the background of the symphony, which was supposedly about a brutal massacre (Russia’s “Bloody Sunday”) in front of the Winter Palace in 1905 – a massacre that spurred on repression and further rebellion that culminated in the Russian Revolution of 1917.

But it might also have referred to the Hungarian massacre of 1956, when Soviet forces repressed a rebellion with tanks and much death.

The siren call of joy, poetry and revolution – what more do you need?

The Eugene Symphony: Hough Plays Beethoven
8 pm Thursday, Nov. 17
Silva Concert Hall in the Hult Center for the Performing Arts
Tickets $12-$65 plus fees up to $6.50; youth $10 plus a $2.50 fee at the Hult Center Box Office or by phone, 541-682-5000.

Suzi Steffen

Suzi has been writing about the arts in Eugene, Ashland and Portland for about 10 years. She loves riding her Torker Trike, Momo; going to performances; reading and writing books; gardening; and watching as many films as possible in between everything else. Email her at suzi at theeugenereview dot com.

suzi has 22 posts and counting.See all posts by suzi

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