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GRANT PARK SYMPHONY

Pianist Stephen Hough is one of those unassuming, learned soloists who slowly compile impressive track records without a lot of hype. At 35, the Englishman boasts an extensive discography that includes the complete solo keyboard works of Benjamin Britten and a pair of Hummel concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra. In the studio and in concert Hough is fond of exploring the obscure corners of the classical repertoire; true to form, he will perform Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 9 with the Grant Park Symphony this week. The woefully neglected concerto has been dismissed in some quarters as nothing more than interesting juvenilia. But as musicologist Charles Rosen has pointed out, it occupies an imposing place in the Mozart canon because it lays out the principles of a classical concerto and introduces forceful drama into the moribund Baroque genre. Intellectual pianists love to champion it--the concerto also is featured at Ravinia this weekend courtesy of Emanuel Ax--but not too many of them manage to make it sing like an opera. Hough is sure to do that under the baton of Eiji Oue, the Japanese-born maestro and Bernstein protege who now heads the Minnesota Orchestra. Oue is sometimes too serious for his own good, but when he goes all out--as he's done on recent CDs with the Minnesotans for Reference Recordings--he can conjure up fresh, fearlessly ultraromantic postures (which bodes well for the performances of Richard Strauss's tone poem Don Juan and Stravinsky's thumping Firebird Suite). Kicking off the concert is "Valentino Dances" from The Dream of Valentino, the latest opera by Twin Cities-based Dominick Argento. Wednesday, 7 PM, and next Friday, August 16, 8 PM, Petrillo Music Shell, Grant Park, Columbus and Jackson; 742-4763 or 742-7638.

TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Stephen Hough by Christian Steiner.

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