05 Jan 2024

Sir Stephen Hough on his World Premiere

USUO: What inspired your Piano Concerto, The World of Yesterday?
HOUGH: I got a call from a film director who was writing a movie about a composer writing a piano concerto. He sent me the script and almost that very day, I found a theme for the two characters—and that created the beginning sketches.

Who are the characters?
HOUGH: There’s a young American composer, who has a very open-sky, “white keys” theme; and an elder Austrian baroness, who has a decadent, lush theme—like a piece of chocolate cake. See how many times you can hear those themes in their different disguises!

Is the subtitle, The World of Yesterday, the title of the movie?
HOUGH: The movie went in a different direction—but I kept the sketches. It was set in Vienna in the 1930s and I wanted to find a title with a sense of nostalgia, because the music is very romantic and feels of a different age. I want a tear to appear in the eye.

Sir Stephen Hough
Sir Stephen Hough

What is it like to perform your own music?
HOUGH: All of the famous piano concertos—by Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Lizst, Rachmaninoff, and so on—were written for the composer to perform, with few exceptions. So that’s another “world of yesterday.” But it’s pretty scary! You feel so much more vulnerable.

What are you looking forward to next week?
HOUGH: I won’t truly know what the music sounds like until that first rehearsal—so that’s thrilling, exciting, and a little daunting. I’m curious to know what the musicians have to say. I hope they enjoy playing it, because I knew that writing for an orchestra like the Utah Symphony, there were no restrictions!

Hear the world premiere of Sir Stephen Hough’s first Piano Concerto, The World of Yesterday, January 13 and 14 at Maurice Abravanel Hall.