The Tempest was the first work to resonate through the Federation Concert Hall at this event, with a markedly technical performance from the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. This Tchaikovsky fantasy felt fragmented, spacious, and with sections exposed (the latter being well-suited to the venue’s acoustics). Balance was exceptional – but this came through disjointed passages of music with abrupt changes in voice and dynamic.
Today, The Tempest feels surprisingly cinematic. Similarly, its initial build seems to await some sort of cue for change or resolution, rather than arrive at its destination through pacing we might find familiar. Without criticism of composer or orchestra, this music simply was what it was (but with exceptional execution).
And then, Stephen Hough.
Few musicians do I place on a pedestal, but this pianist and world-renowned “polymath” (as The Economist named him) is one such artist. His playing is inarguably logical but never cold. It is a challenge to understand his capacity to navigate such dualities – tenderness and aggression; fervency and perfection. Through it all, he never appears to lose technical or emotional control.
During the Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, I was positioned on the balcony and could watch Hough’s fingers skate across the keys; in fact, for this I was thankful as his sound often sunk...