wwshd? – part I

well, the bracelets are back in the drawer, my bic is in my pocket, and all eight candles have been extinguished… hard to believe the first annual international stephen hough appreciation week/octave is already a thing of the past.  oh, but what a finale last night at the schnitz.  after a 4-minute warm-up from a guy named giacomo meyerbeer, birthday boy stephen hough bounded on stage and took position behind the controls of a nine-foot concert grand.  on the menu was the first piano concerto written by frankie (don’t be distracted by that z – just say “list”) liszt.  now, this particular piece of music just might be the most crowd-pleasingly perfect 88-key ass-kicker ever created, devised by liszt to showcase his own incredible facility at the piano.  under 20 minutes in length, it is a compact fireball complete with a deviously infectious melody that you probably already know from watching old cartoon villains make their entrance.  fueled by nothing but single-origin peruvian dark chocolate, mr. hough absolutely killed it, pounding out the intro with such force i immediately felt a little sorry for the steinway.  tender moments surface during the middle of the work, which stephen lovingly milked while the associate concertmaster looked on with what has to be described as a shit-eatin’ grin.  runs up and down and back up the keyboard, block chords requiring 14 fingers, crossed hands, trills that lasted a lifetime… the spirit of show-off liszt was palpable.  the final minutes of the concerto were played with such reckless intensity, i half-expected to see hough launch himself into the audience for a wee bit of crowd-surfing.  while the roadies shot fire extinguishers at the piano (now billowing with black smoke and engulfed in flames), mr. hough enjoyed his standing ovation.  the band played “happy birthday,” the audience sang along, and carlos presented the man of the hour with – what else – a brand new fedora from helmer’s haberdashery (size 60, of course).

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