Teaching Russian Warhorses New Tricks at Grant Park's 75th Season Opener

June 11, 2009

Rather than treat the work as a virtuoso showpiece for piano with the orchestra merely along for the ride, Hough and his willing collaborator Kalmar set out to show us an entirely new side of the piece.

The Grant Park Music Festival opened its 75th anniversary season on a cold, windy night with most concertgoers forgoing the usual summer attire for coats and hats. The threat of rain that never emerged may have kept the opening night crowd down to a fraction of its usual size—particularly for the inaugural concert of such a significant anniversary—but the enthusiastic audience that turned out didn’t allow its spirits to be dampened by the weather.

After the obligatory rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, heard in its festive Toscanini arrangement, Carlos Kalmar emerged with British pianist Stephen Hough and both got right down to business.

Hough, 47, has been coming to Chicago since the early 1980s and even as a young pianist, was always a cerebral rather than a bravura performer. Thus, the opportunity to hear what he would do with the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto—an overdone warhorse that young pianists exploit to show off youthful energy and virtuosity, but which Hough has deliberately avoided over the years—was tantalizing. Read the full article at www.chicagoclassicalreview.com.

Dennis Polkow, Chicago Classical Review.