The English-born Australian pianist, Stephen Andrew Gill Hough, was born in Heswall (then in Cheshire) on the Wirral Peninsula, and grew up in Hoylake, where he began piano lessons at the age of 5. In 1978, he was a finalist in the BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition and won the piano section. In 1982, he won the Terence Judd Award in England. In 1983, he took first prize at the Naumburg International Piano Competition in New York. Hough holds a Master's degree from the Juilliard School where his studies were assisted by the receipt of the first ever Royal Philharmonic Society Julius Isserlis Scholarship for study abroad. He has studied with Heather Slade-Lipkin, Gordon Green, and Derrick Wyndham.
With a singular artistic vision that transcends musical fashions and trends, Stephen Hough is widely regarded as one of the most important and distinctive pianists of his generation. He has appeared as a soloist with major orchestras around the world including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Houston Symphony Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra (London), Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Malaysian Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Other engagements include appearances with the orchestras of Madrid, Budapest and Gothenberg, amongst others. Recent engagements with orchestra include performances with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, a USA tour with the Russian National Orchestra led by Vladimir Jurowski, and a worldwide televised performance with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Sir Simon Rattle. He also performed all of the works for piano and orchestra of Tchaikovsky over four BBC Proms and returned to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2010-2011 to play the same Tchaikovsky cycle over six concerts.
As recitalist Stephen Hough has appeared on the major stages of the world including Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium, Chicago's Symphony Hall, London's Royal Festival Hall and the main stage of the Concertgebouw. In 2009, he played recitals in the Royal Festival Hall as well as becoming the first British instrumentalist to give a solo recital on the main stage of Carnegie Hall in nearly 20 years. He has appeared at festivals worldwide including Aldeburgh, Aspen, BBC Proms (where he has made over 15 concerto appearances), Blossom, Edinburgh, Hollywood Bowl Mostly Mozart (New York), Ravinia, Salzburg, Sapporo, Saratoga, Tanglewood, and Verbier.
As chamber musician Stephen Hough has worked with Steven Isserlis, Joshua Bell, Michael Collins and Tabea Zimmermann, as well as the Juilliard Quartet, the Emerson Quartet, the Takacs Quartet, and the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet.
Stephen Hough is also a composer and transcriber, and often includes his own works in his recitals. The premiere of his cello concerto The Loneliest Wilderness, written for Steven Isserlis, took place in March 2007 with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Two choral works - Mass of Innocence and Experience and Missa Mirabilis - were performed at London’s Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral respectively in the summer of 2007. In January 2009, his trio for piccolo, contrabassoon and piano Was mit den Traenen Geschieht was premiered at the Philharmonie in Berlin by members of the Berliner Philharmoniker. His song cycles Herbstleider (2007) and Other Love Songs (2010) were premiered and recorded by members of The Prince Consort. A string sextet, Requiem Aeternum: after Victoria, was commissioned by the National Gallery for their major autumn 2009 exhibition, “The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture 1600-1700”. His Sonata for Piano (broken branches) was premiered by himself at the Wigmore Hall in 2011. In 2012 the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Choir gave the world premiere of the orchestrated version of his Missa Mirabilis. Hough has also published numerous compositions with Josef Weinberger Ltd.
Stephen Hough is an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music in London, where is a visiting professor of piano. He is also Fellow of the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, where he is the International Chair of piano studies. In recognition of his achievements, he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2001, joining prominent writers and scientists who have made significant contributions in their fields. In 2009 he was named by The Economist and Intelligent Life magazines as one of 20 living polymaths . In 2010 he was named Instrumentalist of the Year at the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards. He was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Liverpool in 2011.
An exclusive Hyperion recording artist, many of Stephen Hough’s catalogue of over 50 CDs have garnered international prizes, including the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, Diapason d’or, Monde de la musique, several Grammy nominations, and eight Gramophone Magazine Awards, including ‘Record of the Year’ in 1996 and 2003. His recording of the five Camille Saint-Saëns concertos won the Gramophone Record of the Year in 2001, and was voted in 2008 the Gold Disc, "winner of winners" in a poll commemorating 30 years of the award. His 2005 set of the four Sergei Rachmaninov Piano Concertos and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, recorded during live performances with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra under the baton of then music director Andrew Litton, which have been compared to the recordings by the composer himself, and became the fastest selling recording in Hyperion's history. These recordings won him his seventh Gramophone Award as well as the Classical BRIT Critics Award. His 1987 recording of Hummel concertos is Chandos' best-selling disc to date. His recording of the Complete Chopin Waltzes won the Diapason d'Or de l’Année in 2011. His most recent releases are the “Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra by Tchaikovsky” with the Minnesota Orchestra led by Osmo Vänskä, and a Chopin recital: 'Late Masterpieces'.His own compositions can be heard on a CD called “Broken Branches” from BIS Records and on the Prince Consort's CD “Other Love Songs” on Linn Records.
Stephen Hough joined the Roman Catholic Church when he was 19. Stephen Hough is also an avid writer. In addition to scholarly and critically-acclaimed CD liner notes and articles for music publications, he has written for The Guardian, The Times, and was invited by the Telegraph Media Group in December 2008 to start a cultural blog. Hough has written extensively about about his homosexuality and its relationship with both his music-making and his religion for the print media and has been interviewed on two special guest-edited episodes of BBC Radio 4’s The Today Programme by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Baroness Shirley Williams. He has also published The Bible as Prayer: a handbook for lectio divina, published by Continuum and Paulist Press in 2007. In 2008 he won the Sixth International Poetry Competition. A resident of London, he became an Australian citizen in 2005 and thus has dual nationality (his father was born in Australia in 1926).