Stephen Hough’s performance is heavily influenced by this intellectual approach to the music.

Stephen Hough performed Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto Friday night with the FIU Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Judd.

Stephen Hough is a thinking man’s pianist. His performances are always intelligently conceived through intense study of the score at hand and its historical background and performance traditions. The multi-talented Hough is also a composer, columnist for the London newspaper The Guardian and an active blogger. His repertoire has included scores from the byways of 19th- and early 20th-century composition as well as mainstream works.

In post-performance remarks, Hough noted that the concerto’s first E-flat major chord is “the beginning of something absolutely earthshaking.” Indeed that opening resounded differently than in past South Florida performances. It is usually played by the orchestra, lacking the resolutions of a fifth, prior to the piano’s entrance.

After study of Beethoven’s manuscript, Hough concluded that the piano should play the opening with the orchestra and connect directly into the succeeding arpeggios, adding the crucial resolution of the opening note. That small detail was only the beginning of a reading replete with fresh insights that avoided hackneyed conventionality.

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