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,