baltimoresun.com

« Musical week in review: Pro Musica Rara | Main | We was robbed; no Grammy for the BSO »

January 31, 2010

Ever-provocative Stephen Hough on the issue of gay pianists

Leave it to Stephen Hough, the English pianist who combines technical panache and incisive music-making in such compelling ways, to stir the blogosphere pot.

On his inevitably provocative blog, where he's apt to talk sexuality (he's gay) and religion (he's Catholic) with equal daring, Hough has raised the subject of whether it's possible to tell from the playing whether a pianist is gay. 

Not surprisingly, there's a lively comments section on this post, and I'm sure conversations will be going on in real-live domains as well.

To tell the truth, I've occasionally wondered, too, if such an essential characteristic as one's sexual orientation invariably

finds a way into a musician's art (and not just a pianist's).

Not that it's a hugely important issue, but you've got to admit, it's interesting. All of life's experiences, presumably, can translate into an interpretation at the keyboard, or on the podium, of whatever. But how might this manifest itself?

As Hough is the first to point out, there's no use relying on stereotypes in this sort of guessing game: "Is there something which makes Horowitz, Richter and Cherkassky (to choose three completely contrasting artists) different from, say, Rubinstein, Gilels and Serkin? Can you tell they were gay? It’s certainly not the old stereotype of effeminacy – Richter is one of the most physically powerful, and ‘unglamorous’ pianists of all time ..." 

Maybe next someone can address another topic that I've always been curious about: How come there seem to be so few gay male violinists? 

BALTIMORE SUN FILE PHOTO

Posted by Tim Smith at 3:42 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Comments

I may be unusual but I can honest say that the questions you raised have never entered my mind. Nor do I think they're necessary. An artist's sexuality is never a consideration for me. Perhaps the fact that four of my last choir directors at church have been gay has inured me to even thinking about it.

You're not unusual at all. I suspect most of us don't give any of this a thought, at least not during the music-making. But it was fascinating to me to see Mr. Hough raise it the way he did. (Funny, but this topic probably wouldn't have aroused much interest had he brought up the subject of, say, organists.) TIM

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at baltimoresun.com/artsmash. This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
View the Artsmash blog
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

Baltimore Sun coverage
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop
PHOTO GALLERY
Famous faces in classical music
Sign up for FREE entertainment alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for nightlife text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Weekend Watch newsletter
Plan your weekend with baltimoresun.com's best events, restaurant and movie reviews, TV picks and more delivered to you every Thursday for free.
See a sample | Sign up

Most Recent Comments
Stay connected