Rough Ideas: Reflections on Music and More by Stephen Hough - review by Ed Vulliamy

Ed Vulliamy

Grace Notes

Rough Ideas: Reflections on Music and More


Faber & Faber 443pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

The front cover of this book could hardly be more off-putting: an Orangeman, apparently, in bowler hat and orange shirt, staring into an orange horizon with the title (in orange) written across his back. Yet the promise of what lies within couldn’t be more inviting: the pensées of one of the finest musicians – and, it turns out, musical thinkers – of his generation, jotted down while travelling round the world to perform. Luckily, by the time one reaches the back cover, the words between have won the day. This is a marvellous book.

It comprises morsels, and Stephen Hough may be criticised for having written a scrapbook rather than a book. I published a book of my own last year on music, war and peace, and I am still not quite sure what it is about, apart from, well, music, written by a war reporter. When people ask what exactly Hough’s book is about, one must be able to say, ‘I really don’t know. It’s about music, by a musician.’

Rough Ideas comes at an important time for classical music. In some quarters, the barricades that separate it from society at large are coming down – a result of the London Symphony Orchestra’s outreach programmes, of a mini revolution in Los Angeles led by the conductor Gustavo Dudamel,

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

A Mirror - Westend

Follow Literary Review on Twitter