JANUARY 12 & 13, 2024

NEW YORK (December 13, 2024) — Celebrated pianist, composer, and writer Sir Stephen Hough, performs the world premiere of his first Piano Concerto, “The World of Yesterday,” with the Utah Symphony conducted by Sir Donald Runnicles on Friday, January 12 and Saturday, January 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City. The program also includes Elgar’s Cockaigne (In London Town) and Vaughan Williams’s Symphony No. 5.
Sir Stephen’s compositional oeuvre already boasts orchestral, choral, chamber, and solo piano, organ, and harpsichord works, but “The World of Yesterday” is his first foray into the piano concerto form. The title refers to the last book by Stefan Zweig, a memoir of his cultural life in Vienna before the advent of the First World War. For Sir Stephen, the title conjured a time of nostalgia and intense musical romance.
Such looking back also inspired reflections on the history of the piano concerto as a form. In his Artist Note on the piece, Sir Stephen writes: “From Mozart until the mid-20th century, a composer in most cases wrote a piano concerto for him- or herself to play. It was a way to communicate musical personality and to display pianistic prowess. This is true right up to Britten, Prokofiev, Bartok, Shostakovich and, supremely, Rachmaninov. What might it be to rediscover such a connection between creator and performer? This piece is my attempt to explore this.”
The three-movement, 20-minute concerto is based on two motives: the first of which opens the first movement — Prelude and Cadenza — in the violins and flutes, and is answered shortly afterward by a germ of the second motive, played by the clarinet and harp. An extended piano cadenza dissipates into a slow, sweet-toothed waltz with a hint of Bill Evans, leading into the second movement, Waltz Variations — a nod to the source of the concerto’s title and its nostalgia for pre-war Viennese society. Throughout the eight variations, the piano functions primarily as accompanist, offering decorative commentary throughout. The final movement, Tarantella Appassionata, is a blistering dance that re-introduces the original two motives, growing in emotional intensity and culminating in a blazing conclusion.
After its world premiere, Sir Stephen performs the Canadian premiere of the concerto with the Calgary Philharmonic led by Rune Bergmann on March 23 and the European premiere with the Halle Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder, May 15, 16, and 19.
Named by The Economist as one of Twenty Living Polymaths, Sir Stephen Hough combines a distinguished career as a pianist with those of composer and writer. He was the first classical performer to be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the New Year Honors 2014, and was awarded a Knighthood for Services to Music in the Queen’s Birthday Honors 2022. He has performed extensively in recital and with most of the world’s major orchestras, and his catalog of around 70 albums has garnered four Grammy nominations, eight Gramophone Awards and France’s Diapason d’Or de l’Année. 
Sir Stephen’s more than 50 published compositions include Fanfare Toccata, commissioned for the 2022 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and performed by all 30 competitors, and String Quartet No. 1, “Les Six Rencontres,” premiered by the Grammy Award-winning Takács Quartet in 2021 and released by Hyperion Records in 2023. In the spring of 2024, Hough and the Castalian Quartet tour a chamber music program that includes the Castalians performing “Les Six Rencontres” in its New York premiere at the 92NY. 
Sir Stephen has also composed The Loneliest Wilderness, a cello concerto premiered by Steven Isserlis and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in 2007; Was mit den Tränen geschieht, commissioned by members of the Berlin Philharmonic, which received its world premiere at the Berlin Philharmonie in 2009; and the string sextet Requiem Aeternam (after Victoria), commissioned by the National Gallery for its 2009 exhibition, “The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture, 1600–1700.” 
Hough has composed four piano sonatas: broken branches (2011), notturno luminoso (2012), Sonata III (Trinitas) (2015), and Sonata No. 4 (Vida Breve) (2018). He performs broken branches on an all-Hough recording for BIS that also includes The Loneliest Wilderness with Steven Isserlis and the Tapiola Sinfonietta, Was mit Tränen geschiehtUn Piccolo Sonatina (for solo piccolo), Bridgewater (for bassoon and piano), and Herbstlieder (for baritone and piano). He recorded his second sonata, notturno luminoso, for his album In the Night on Hyperion and premiered his Sonata for Cello and Piano, Left Hand (Les Adieux) with Steven Isserlis in 2013, recording the work for Hyperion two years later. His fourth sonata was included on his solo album, Vida Breve, released by Hyperion in 2021. 
Among his numerous choral works are “Hallowed,” premiered and recorded by The Sixteen and Harry Christophers in 2018, as well as two masses—“Mass of Innocence and Experience” and “Missa Mirabilis”—respectively commissioned by and performed at London’s Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral. In 2012, the Indianapolis Symphony commissioned and performed Hough’s orchestration of “Missa Mirabilis,” which was subsequently performed by the BBC Symphony as part of Hough’s residency with the orchestra. In September 2023, Orchid Classics released an album, Mirabilis: The Music of Stephen Hough, dedicated exclusively to his choral and organ music. Sir Stephen’s compositions are published by Josef Weinberger, Ltd. 
As an author, Hough’s memoir Enough: Scenes from Childhood was published by Faber & Faber in spring 2023. It follows his 2019 collection of essays for Faber, Rough Ideas: Reflections on Music and More – a 2020 Royal Philharmonic Society Award winner and one of Financial Times’ Book of the Year 2019 – as well as his first novel, The Final Retreat (Sylph Editions, 2018). He has also been published by The New York Times, The Telegraph, The Times, and The Guardian. Hough is an Honorary Bencher of the Middle Temple, an Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society, and was a Visiting Fellow at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University from 2019 to 2022.
Friday, January 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, January 13 at 7:30 p.m.
Abravanel Hall, Salt Lake City, UT
Utah Symphony Orchestra
Sir Donald Runnicles, conductor
Sir Stephen Hough, piano
ELGAR: Cockaigne (In London Town)
STEPHEN HOUGH: Piano Concerto, “The World of Yesterday” (World Premiere; Utah Symphony co-commission)
I) Prelude and Cadenza
II) Waltz Variations
III) Tarantella Appassionata