Pianist Stephen Hough Barred from Playing Concert in Vietnam

Classic Arts News   Pianist Stephen Hough Barred from Playing Concert in Vietnam
Stephen Hough, one of the most critically admired pianists active today, has had a planned performance in Hanoi cancelled, evidently over his gay identity and forthright views on the Roman Catholic Church.

According to a report in London's Daily Telegraph, Hough's manager was told that the concert's sponsor, the cognac maker Hennessy (part of the LVMH luxury goods conglomerate), was withdrawing its invitation to the pianist "in order to prevent potentially tense situations with the regime and to safeguard Mr. Hough's personal safety."

An official with Vietnam's Ministry of Culture and Information apparently visited the pianist's website (www.stephenhough.com) and found there an essay he wrote arguing against the Vatican's stance on homosexuality. It was pointed out to Hough's manager that an outspoken Catholic priest had recently been arrested in Vietnam, and that the official had that event in mind when he noticed Hough's article.

The 45-year-old pianist, who is openly gay and lives with a long-term partner, converted to Roman Catholicism at age 19.

"The engagement was booked six months ago and everything was going ahead with negotiating the fee and travel expenses," Hough told the Telegraph. "Yesterday I found out that the Ministry for Culture and Information had been to my website and had decided that they could not guarantee my personal safety."

Hough has received numerous awards in his career, including a 2001 MacArthur Foundation "genius grant," and he is the only soloist to have won Gramophone magazine's Record of the Year award twice. The Hanoi concert would have been his first performance in Southeast Asia.

In the essay in question, titled "An equal music," Hough argues that the modern-day Church ought not be bound by the Apostle Paul's disapproval of homosexual behavior any more than it adheres to his teachings about slavery or the subservience of women to men. He wrote the piece for a book titled The Way We Are Now, edited by Ben Summerskill; the edited version available on Hough's website was published in the U.K. weekly Catholic newspaper The Tablet in April of 2006.

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