Pianist Stephen Hough Banned in Vietnam for Being Gay

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Ralph
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Pianist Stephen Hough Banned in Vietnam for Being Gay

Post by Ralph » Thu May 31, 2007 3:04 pm

From playbillarts.com:

Pianist Stephen Hough Barred from Playing Concert in Vietnam

By Matthew Westphal
May 29, 2007

Stephen Hough, one of the most critically admired pianists active today, has had a planned performance in Hanoi cancelled, evidently over his gay identity and forthright views on the Roman Catholic Church.

According to a report in London's Daily Telegraph, Hough's manager was told that the concert's sponsor, the cognac maker Hennessy (part of the LVMH luxury goods conglomerate), was withdrawing its invitation to the pianist "in order to prevent potentially tense situations with the regime and to safeguard Mr. Hough's personal safety."

An official with Vietnam's Ministry of Culture and Information apparently visited the pianist's website (www.stephenhough.com) and found there an essay he wrote arguing against the Vatican's stance on homosexuality. It was pointed out to Hough's manager that an outspoken Catholic priest had recently been arrested in Vietnam, and that the official had that event in mind when he noticed Hough's article.

The 45-year-old pianist, who is openly gay and lives with a long-term partner, converted to Roman Catholicism at age 19.

"The engagement was booked six months ago and everything was going ahead with negotiating the fee and travel expenses," Hough told the Telegraph. "Yesterday I found out that the Ministry for Culture and Information had been to my website and had decided that they could not guarantee my personal safety."

Hough has received numerous awards in his career, including a 2001 MacArthur Foundation "genius grant," and he is the only soloist to have won Gramophone magazine's Record of the Year award twice. The Hanoi concert would have been his first performance in Southeast Asia.

In the essay in question, titled "An equal music," Hough argues that the modern-day Church ought not be bound by the Apostle Paul's disapproval of homosexual behavior any more than it adheres to his teachings about slavery or the subservience of women to men. He wrote the piece for a book titled The Way We Are Now, edited by Ben Summerskill; the edited version available on Hough's website was published in the U.K. weekly Catholic newspaper The Tablet in April of 2006.
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Post by Lance » Thu May 31, 2007 3:23 pm

I was under the impression that if Hough had not chosen the career of a concert pianist that he would have been a Catholic priest. At least, somewhere I read this.
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Post by jbuck919 » Thu May 31, 2007 3:41 pm

And people think those guys hanging on to the helicopter taking off from the roof of the American Embassy just wanted to be sure they could have oatmeal for breakfast.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Thu May 31, 2007 7:24 pm

Lance wrote:I was under the impression that if Hough had not chosen the career of a concert pianist that he would have been a Catholic priest. At least, somewhere I read this.
I can't say's I've ever seen Hough, although I have few recordings on Hyperion. So I looked up his website and took a gander at him. Ichabod Crane was what leaped unbidden to mind. He looks the monkish sort. One can easily imagine him hunched over a table in the monastery library.
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Post by Donald Isler » Thu May 31, 2007 8:29 pm

He's a very brilliant player. I particularly remember him playing a Hummel Concerto, I think the A minor.

It's their loss.
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Post by Ralph » Thu May 31, 2007 9:20 pm

I have a number of his CDs and they're outstanding.
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Post by Lance » Thu May 31, 2007 9:34 pm

Indeed, I include Stephen Hough in the Top 10 of pianists before the public today. His Hyperion output is incredible. His Hummel disc on Hyperion [67390] of piano sonatas is one of the best discs of Hummel's music I've ever heard. Don Isler mentions his Hummel concertos; they were on Musical Heritage Society [512071K, also Chandos 8507-same performances]] with Bryden Thomson conducting the English Chamber Orchestra. Aside from Hyperion, he has recorded for ASV (via MusicMasters), BIS, Chandos, Musical Heritage Society, MusicMasters, and Virgin. I also have a live performance him playing Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto #1 with the Chicago Symphony under Bychkov that's quite splendid. I have yet to hear any recording by Hough that wasn't absolutely first rate musically, interpretively, piano-wise, and recording-wise. One of the star pianists of today, without a doubt.
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Post by Chalkperson » Thu May 31, 2007 9:53 pm

Try his Mompou disc, there is no such thing as a bad Stephen Hough Record...

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Post by Lance » Thu May 31, 2007 9:59 pm

Chalkperson wrote:Try his Mompou disc, there is no such thing as a bad Stephen Hough Record...
Yeah ... I got it! :D It's great!
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Post by Ricordanza » Fri Jun 01, 2007 5:41 am

Hough is one of my favorite pianists. I own several of his discs, and I had the pleasure of attending his performance of the Scharwenka Concerto No. 4 with the Philadelphia Orchestra. I'd welcome the opportunity to hear him in concert again. Vietnam's loss is our gain.

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Post by lmpower » Sun Jun 03, 2007 5:19 pm

I own his CD of the Brahms violin sonatas with Robert Mann. It is one of my favorite recordings and deeply moving to me.

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Post by DSzymborski » Sun Jun 03, 2007 6:02 pm

I have to second the recommendations for the Hough disc of Hummel concertos. Definitely the best recordings of those two concertos (I'm a bit of a Hummel fetishist). Not mentioned so far, I don't believe, is Hough's set of Saint-Saëns concertos on Hyperion, is also excellent, right up there with Collard.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 03, 2007 7:17 pm

DSzymborski wrote:I have to second the recommendations for the Hough disc of Hummel concertos. Definitely the best recordings of those two concertos (I'm a bit of a Hummel fetishist).
You would make a nice balance for Ralph, the Dittersdorf fetishist. Hey, Danny. Image
Not mentioned so far, I don't believe, is Hough's set of Saint-Saëns concertos on Hyperion, is also excellent, right up there with Collard.
Yes, I ordered it but haven't listened to it yet - having a bit of a Debussy-Monteverdi festival here.
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Post by CharmNewton » Sun Jun 03, 2007 8:58 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:...having a bit of a Debussy-Monteverdi festival here.
That's indulging in a large dose of originality. Do you think Debussy might have been familiar with Monteverdi (I'm thinking Pelleas here)? And maybe Wagner too? (Hope nobody gets in a huff concerning this right turn.) :)

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Post by jbuck919 » Sun Jun 03, 2007 9:13 pm

CharmNewton wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:...having a bit of a Debussy-Monteverdi festival here.
That's indulging in a large dose of originality. Do you think Debussy might have been familiar with Monteverdi (I'm thinking Pelleas here)? And maybe Wagner too? (Hope nobody gets in a huff concerning this right turn.) :)

John
I'm certainly not going to chew out Corlyss for loving those two composers, no matter what in between she does not appreciate. And it is perfectly possible, likely in fact, that Debussy knew nothing of Monteverdi but the name. The New York Choral Society postdates him just slightly, don't you know.

Also John

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Post by Lance » Sun Jun 03, 2007 11:37 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
CharmNewton wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:...having a bit of a Debussy-Monteverdi festival here.
That's indulging in a large dose of originality. Do you think Debussy might have been familiar with Monteverdi (I'm thinking Pelleas here)? And maybe Wagner too? (Hope nobody gets in a huff concerning this right turn.) :)

John
I'm certainly not going to chew out Corlyss for loving those two composers, no matter what in between she does not appreciate. And it is perfectly possible, likely in fact, that Debussy knew nothing of Monteverdi but the name. The New York Choral Society postdates him just slightly, don't you know.

Also John
TWO JOHNS? Well, how fortunate we are to have such erudite folk here, both on the same subject! Image
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Post by John F » Mon Jun 04, 2007 12:21 am

And here's a third John speaking up!
CharmNewton wrote:Do you think Debussy might have been familiar with Monteverdi
I'm certain of it. The connection would have been through Vincent d'Indy, a champion of Debussy's music and editor of Monteverdi's three full-length operas (c. 1904) for his historically oriented performances by students of the Schola Cantorum, a conservatory he had founded in 1894.

But I don't believe there's any actual Monteverdi influence on "Pelléas et Mélisande." If nothing else, the timing is wrong: "Pelléas" was essentially complete by 1895, except for the orchestral interludes which were added for the premiere in 1902. It may even be that the evolution of opera into music drama, ranging from Wagner to Debussy, encouraged d'Indy to edit and perform the Monteverdi operas.
CharmNewton wrote:And maybe Wagner too?
Definitely Wagner, no doubt about it, and "Parsifal" in particular, which he heard at Bayreuth in 1888. He later declared that "Parsifal" is "one of the finest monuments of sound that has been raised to the imperturbable glory of music." Debussy makes extensive use of recurring motifs, as of course Wagner did. And he all but quotes from the Act 1 transformation music in his own first orchestral interlude, with the parallel situation of Golaud and Mélisande traveling on foot through the forest to the castle of Allemonde. Richard Strauss is said to have remarked, of a particular passage in "Pelléas" (I don't know which), "But that's the whole of 'Parsifal.'"

Musorgsky, particularly "Boris Godunov," was another important influence. Debussy actually went to Moscow in 1881 and 1882 as pianist to Nadezhda von Meck, Tchaikovsky's patroness, and though he was too late to meet Musorgsky who had died earlier in 1881, the vocal score of "Boris" (the second version, with cuts) had been published in Moscow in 1874, so Debussy would have known Musorgsky's own structure and harmony before these were heavily revised by Rimsky-Korsakov in 1896. The first orchestral interlude of "Pelléas" includes a very near quotation from "Boris," the wavy line in the strings which suggests the moving pen of the monk Pimen writing his history of Russia.

I don't know if this, and the "Parsifal" near-quotation, were Debussy's conscious homage to Musorgsky and Wagner, but I'd like to think so.
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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Jun 04, 2007 5:14 am

John F wrote:And here's a third John speaking up!
CharmNewton wrote:Do you think Debussy might have been familiar with Monteverdi
I'm certain of it. The connection would have been through Vincent d'Indy, a champion of Debussy's music and editor of Monteverdi's three full-length operas (c. 1904) for his historically oriented performances by students of the Schola Cantorum, a conservatory he had founded in 1894.

But I don't believe there's any actual Monteverdi influence on "Pelléas et Mélisande." If nothing else, the timing is wrong: "Pelléas" was essentially complete by 1895, except for the orchestral interludes which were added for the premiere in 1902. It may even be that the evolution of opera into music drama, ranging from Wagner to Debussy, encouraged d'Indy to edit and perform the Monteverdi operas.
CharmNewton wrote:And maybe Wagner too?
Definitely Wagner, no doubt about it, and "Parsifal" in particular, which he heard at Bayreuth in 1888. He later declared that "Parsifal" is "one of the finest monuments of sound that has been raised to the imperturbable glory of music." Debussy makes extensive use of recurring motifs, as of course Wagner did. And he all but quotes from the Act 1 transformation music in his own first orchestral interlude, with the parallel situation of Golaud and Mélisande traveling on foot through the forest to the castle of Allemonde. Richard Strauss is said to have remarked, of a particular passage in "Pelléas" (I don't know which), "But that's the whole of 'Parsifal.'"

Musorgsky, particularly "Boris Godunov," was another important influence. Debussy actually went to Moscow in 1881 and 1882 as pianist to Nadezhda von Meck, Tchaikovsky's patroness, and though he was too late to meet Musorgsky who had died earlier in 1881, the vocal score of "Boris" (the second version, with cuts) had been published in Moscow in 1874, so Debussy would have known Musorgsky's own structure and harmony before these were heavily revised by Rimsky-Korsakov in 1896. The first orchestral interlude of "Pelléas" includes a very near quotation from "Boris," the wavy line in the strings which suggests the moving pen of the monk Pimen writing his history of Russia.

I don't know if this, and the "Parsifal" near-quotation, were Debussy's conscious homage to Musorgsky and Wagner, but I'd like to think so.
Well thank you for the information about the Monteverdi connection (very interesting, in fact), and of course the connections with the more recent composers are common knowledge. It is interesting that you would mention (albeit not as the main point) Rimsky in this context, for he was Stravinsky's direct teacher, while I have been waiting to read the definitive treatise on Debussy as Stravinsky's main influence, an assumption I make only on the basis of what I think I can hear.

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Post by John F » Mon Jun 04, 2007 6:49 am

jbuck919 wrote:I have been waiting to read the definitive treatise on Debussy as Stravinsky's main influence, an assumption I make only on the basis of what I think I can hear
Interesting idea, and maybe there's something in it. Certainly Stravinsky sought Debussy out in Paris, and there's a famous story of the two playing through the piano duo version of "Le Sacre du Printemps" (I gather that Debussy was impressed but predictably didn't like it much).

Could you say more about what of Debussy you hear in Stravinsky, and where? Maybe you should write that treatise!
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Jun 04, 2007 12:56 pm

CharmNewton wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:...having a bit of a Debussy-Monteverdi festival here.
That's indulging in a large dose of originality. Do you think Debussy might have been familiar with Monteverdi (I'm thinking Pelleas here)? And maybe Wagner too? (Hope nobody gets in a huff concerning this right turn.) :)
There was no linkage between the two in my mind except that I like them and wanted to hear them. I'm so programming-challenged that anytime I can affirmatively say, "I want to hear that!" I act on it.
John wrote:And it is perfectly possible, likely in fact, that Debussy knew nothing of Monteverdi but the name.
The EM movement goes waaaaaaaaaaay back. The current edition can be said to have started with Arnold Dolmetsch, born in 1858, 4 years before Debussy. Dolmetsch studied in Brussels and began serious concertizing in the EM repertoire in the late 1880s.

Apropros of how far back the current EM movement goes, I usually recoil from performances of EM before the early 60s, but the Boulanger-directed recording of Monteverdi from the 1930s is shockingly modern when compared with the most recent recordings supposedly benefitting from the latest scholarship in authenticity of performance practice.
John F wrote:I'm certain of it. The connection would have been through Vincent d'Indy, a champion of Debussy's music and editor of Monteverdi's three full-length operas (c. 1904) for his historically oriented performances by students of the Schola Cantorum, a conservatory he had founded in 1894.


Thanks. I was unaware of the existence of this school (apparently founded in reaction to the Paris Conservatory's rejection of d'Indy's proposed reorganization of the cirriculum, including Gregorian Chant and Palestrina) and d'Indy's preparation of performing editions of Monteverdi's operas. When the schola was founded Dolmetsch had already been working in the EM field for several years. Something must have been in the air.
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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Jun 04, 2007 1:07 pm

John F wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:I have been waiting to read the definitive treatise on Debussy as Stravinsky's main influence, an assumption I make only on the basis of what I think I can hear
Interesting idea, and maybe there's something in it. Certainly Stravinsky sought Debussy out in Paris, and there's a famous story of the two playing through the piano duo version of "Le Sacre du Printemps" (I gather that Debussy was impressed but predictably didn't like it much).

Could you say more about what of Debussy you hear in Stravinsky, and where? Maybe you should write that treatise!
Listen, if I had just had enough sense to complete my Ph.D.--- :)

No, I can't put anything specific on it, but when I hear--well to be very specific The Rite of Spring--it does sound rather like Debussy's last tone poem, which should be taken as a positive statement. And it has to be remembered that whatever the relationship between the two it was at the famous debut of that work that Debussy was one of those desperately trying to quell the "riot" so the music could even be heard.

Before Karl Henning gets involved, I do also hear the undoubted Russian strains in Stravinsky, but of course that entire generation was a bit AC/DC and Debussy himself was a beneficiary of Mme. von Meck. :)

I'm sure that by now Corlyss realizes that I already acknowledged my chastisement on the founding time of the "EM movement," if we may call it that.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:36 pm

jbuck919 wrote:I'm sure that by now Corlyss realizes that I already acknowledged my chastisement on the founding time of the "EM movement," if we may call it that.
If I'd wanted to get really picky, the EM movement goes back to the Florentines laboring in the late Renaissance to revive, reproduce, recover the authentic performances of ancient Greek dramas and accidently inventing opera into the bargain. Getting back to the source seems to be a popular human pastime when modern times prove unsatisfactory for some reason.
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Post by John F » Mon Jun 04, 2007 7:23 pm

jbuck919 wrote:No, I can't put anything specific on it, but when I hear--well to be very specific The Rite of Spring--it does sound rather like Debussy's last tone poem
Would that be "Images," whose final section is "Rondes de Printemps" (1905-10)? Haven't listened to that in a long time.

Anyway, Stravinsky said, "The musicians of my generation and I myself owe the most to Debussy." (Conversations with Stravinsky) No specifics. And here's confirmation of your hunch: "'Le Sacre' should not have been all that new to Debussy, who surely must have heard his own share in it." (Themes and Conclusions) Again, no specifics.

Incidentally, Stravinsky says in "Expositions and Developments," "The first time I visited [Debussy] in his home, after 'The Firebird,' we talked about Musorgsky's songs and agreed that they contained the best music of the whole Russian school. He said he had discovered Musorgsky when he found some of the music lying untouched on Mme. von Meck's piano." So apparently his first exposure to Musorgsky wasn't with "Boris Godunov," as I'd guessed. When he did get to know that opera, I don't know, but eventually he saw it in Paris with Chaliapin (in the Rimsky version).
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Post by piston » Mon Jun 04, 2007 7:33 pm

From what I know of photographic representations of Debussy, including one with Stravinsky, Claude never looked at the camera. Rather, he looked at his fellow "photographee" looking at the camera. Debussy did this both with Stravinsky and with Satie, staring at them at the point in time when the picture was taken. Revealing, I think....
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jun 05, 2007 4:04 am

piston wrote:Revealing, I think....
Of . . . ?
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Post by piston » Tue Jun 05, 2007 9:36 am

Of how a composer best known for capturing impressions in music might have been observing how fellow composers were projecting expressions on film....
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by Brahms » Tue Jun 05, 2007 4:36 pm

It must be devastating to be banned from the vibrant Vietnamese art scene. I understand that the only thing worse is to be banned from Bangladesh .......

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jun 05, 2007 10:23 pm

Brahms wrote:I understand that the only thing worse is to be banned from Bangladesh .......
Vietnam and Bangladesh are economically robust and they want to be seen as sophisticated, as befits their rising wealth. We might sneer at the efforts but perhaps it is more like the explosion of regional opera houses and orchestras here in the US. I'm sure they would have paid Mr. Hough quite handsomely for his services.

Young Norwegian conductor Halldis Rønning became the first woman to conduct at the Hanoi Opera House in Vietnam.

Published: 12/01/2006 by Christian Lysvåg

http://www.mic.no/mic.nsf/doc/art2006120112491898724193

In celebration of 35 years of diplomatic relations between Norway and Vietnam three prominent Norwegian musicians are appearing with the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra. The first part of the program consists of two concerts; on November 30th and December 8th. Special attention befell Halldis Rønning on last night’s premiere, being the first woman to conduct at Hanoi Opera House.

The joint venture comes to pass as an initiative by Oslo’s Ultima festival for Contemporary Music, which has been involved in the development of the Vietnamese classical music scene for years. This undertaking has included collaboration between Norwegian musicians and the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra. The Orchestra is the locomotive of the Vietnamese classical scene and it is now becoming en ensemble of international format, aided, in part, by the extensive collaboration with Norwegian institutions and musicians.

Thus Norwegian musicians performing with Vietnam’s leading orchestra is a natural and fitting way of celebrating 35 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries. In addition to Halldis Rønning, the concerts feature soprano Siri Torjesen and flutist Ingela Øien.

The program includes some epitomic pieces from the classical tradition in Norway and Europe: works by Grieg, Mozart and Debussy, as well as a work by Norwegian Modernist Fartein Valen and an opening piece by Vietnamese composer Trong Bang.

Concerts:

November 30th, Hanoi Opera House
December 8th, Ho Chi Min City (Saigon)
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