60 seconds with ... Stephen Hough

One of the world’s leading piano virtuosos and musical intellectuals, Stephen Hough will be performing a special concert at HAF 2016 in aid of the charity Music in Prisons.

How old were you when you became serious about pursuing a career in classical music?
I wanted to be a concert pianist the day after I started to learn the piano.  I'm serious about music but not sure about the idea of pursuing a career as a goal.

Who has influenced your career most and why?
Again, not sure about the 'career' word.  Musical influences abound though: Gordon Green (my main teacher).  Robert Mann (Juilliard Quartet).  Alfred Cortot (from recordings).

You've played in numerous famous international venues but always make time for smaller grassroots venues / festivals.  What are the highlights of playing in such an environment and why is it important?
I like the variety of venues.  Certain pieces work better in certain places, and there's an intimacy in a small space which can be electrifying.

What is the greatest challenge you have had to overcome in your life thus far?
Just the stamina needed to be a tough old boot all day long at airports and hotels and receptions, then to be as sensitive as the pupil of your eye when on stage.

What is the best piece of advice you could give a budding classical musician starting out?
Be tough on yourself and be kind to yourself in equal measure - well, maybe 51% kind.

You're a patron for 'Music in Prisons', how did you get involved with this particular charity and why?
I can't remember how I first heard about the charity but Archbishop Fulton Sheen (famous American cleric from the mid-20th century) used to say to prisoners: the only difference between us is that you've been caught.  Music can lift someone out of despair and if that happens it's probably the most important thing we can do on this earth.

Outside of music, what are you passionate about and how do you include these in your day to day life?
Good tea, any kind of chocolate … and reading.  Life without books (even on my iPad these days) is an impossible thought.

Which actor would you like to play you in a story of your life?
A bad one, so that the movie would flop and never be edited and seen.

Tell us one fun fact about yourself which people may find surprising.
I won the egg and spoon race at Primary School.

You've achieved so much professionally, do you have any unrealised ambitions still to achieve?  If so, what are they?
To finish (and publish) my second novel.