Michael Houstoun

Michael Houstoun

Michael Houstoun in 2013
Background information
Born (1952-10-20) 20 October 1952
Timaru, New Zealand
Genres classical
Occupation(s) concert pianist
Instruments piano
Website www.michaelhoustoun.co.nz

Michael Houstoun CNZM (born 20 October 1952) is a concert pianist from New Zealand. He has twice in his life performed the complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas and in between these achievements, he overcame focal hand dystonia.

Early life

Houstoun was born in Timaru in 1952.[1] His parents were Archie and Ngaire Houstoun. He received his education at Claremont Primary School and Timaru Boys' High School.[1] Houstoun started playing piano at the age of five and studied under Sister Mary Eulalie in Dunedin and, from age 15, Maurice Till in Christchurch.[1][2]


Having won every New Zealand piano competition and award as a teenager, he then travelled and entered three major international competitions: Van Cliburn (1973, 3rd place), Leeds (1975, 4th place) and Tchaikovsky (1982, 6th).[3]

From 1974 to 1981, he studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and London.[2] Houstoun returned to live in New Zealand in 1981, and he currently lives in Feilding.[4] He regularly plays with New Zealand's professional music ensembles as well as solo recitals and recording. Aged 40,[5] he performed and recorded the complete Beethoven sonata cycle, and collaborated with Tainui Stephens on a television documentary about Franz Liszt entitled Icon in B minor.

In 1999, Houstoun received an honorary doctorate in literature from Massey University. Houstoun started suffering from focal hand dystonia, which could easily have ended his career. The condition was treated physiotherapy and acupuncture, and he had splints made, used rubber bands, and learned braille as sensory retraining, but Houstoun believes that it was his relaxation technique that helped him overcome the condition.[6][7] In 2001, a documentary was filmed about his condition.[4] After five years, he started performing again as a soloist.[4][7] In the 2012 Birthday Honours, Houstoun became a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.[4]

In 2013, he repeated his achievement from 20 years earlier of performing all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas.[3][8]


  1. 1 2 3 "Michael Houstoun" (PDF). Timaru District Council. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  2. 1 2 "Pianist's work honoured". The Timaru Herald. 4 December 2008. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  3. 1 2 "Masterpieces come to life". Taranaki Daily News. 29 October 2013. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Johnston, Alexia; Williams, Al (4 June 2012). "Our outstanding Kiwis". The Timaru Herald. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  5. Hannigan, Margot (21 August 2013). "Beethoven, Houston a treat for audience". The Nelson Mail. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  6. Hickling, Alfred (9 March 2007). "Pain stopped play". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  7. 1 2 Houstoun, Michael (20 November 2005). "Focal Dystonia — My History". Music and Health. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
  8. Hannigan, Margot (24 October 2013). "Houstoun steeped in emotion". The Nelson Mail. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
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