Stephen Hough brings a San Francisco Performances recital to Herbst Theatre on the 18th of January, with a program that’s filled with metaphoric sparks: music by Claude Debussy and his polar opposite, Beethoven (with Schumann in between). Hough has recently released an all-Debussy album, a composer whose music he’s loved since childhood.

There’s more information about the concert at the San Francisco Performances website.

“I’ve loved this music since I was a child,” he says. “The very first LP that I owned, that my parents bought, I mean literally the first one, was The Girl with the Flaxen Hair, and I’ve loved Debussy’s music all my life.” The new CD brings together Estampes, Images (books I and II), Children’s Corner, La plus que lente and L’isle joyeuse. The way he approached harmony and the instrument remains as fresh and revolutionary as it was when he wrote them. “He created a new sound at the piano. He actually changed the way we listen to the piano. From new age doodling that you’ll hear in an elevator through to Dutilleux and Messiaen, to Takemitsu and other composers from Asia… All of them are unthinkable without Debussy. And let’s not even get started on Gershwin, and Bill Evans. His influence is absolutely incalculable.” Part of that new approach was seeing harmony as more than just something to accompany a melody. “He started to think of harmony as color by itself. It’s something that really hadn’t happened until then. You get something of it in Liszt, but the idea that you could just take what was like background, was wallpaper, and actually make that wallpaper something that was the focus of your artistic vision is something that started with Debussy.”