His devotion to unusual repertory of various eras in music is reflected in some of his titles. His album New York Variations includes the Ghost Variations by George Tsontakis and John Corigliano's Etude Fantasy and was named Time Magazine's Best Classical CD of the Year. His recording of piano concertos of Scharwenka and Sauer won Gramophone Magazine's award in 1996 for Concerto Record of the year and the top prize of Record of the Year. On that disc, he was accompanied by conductor Lawrence Foster and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. He has recorded the little-known complete orchestra-and-piano works by Felix Mandelssohn and the solo piano music of Mompou (another Gramophone Award winner and also winner of a Diapason d'Or). Hough has also won the Classic CD and Deutschen Schallplattenkritik Prize. Hough has recorded piano music of Coates, Chaminade, Liszt, Lieberman, Franck, and his own well-regarded etudes and piano transcriptions (an album of his music, Broken Branches, is available), as well as complete series of Saint-Saëns' and Rachmaninov's piano concertos.
In 2001, Hough was the recipient of a prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. He was the first classical pianist so honored. Another honor was designation as one of 20 living polymaths by The Economist in 2009; he is an active artist who had a solo show at London's Broadbent Gallery in 2009. Another major honor was being made Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2014.
His catalog of albums on Hyperion numbers more than 50 and covers a vast range of repertory, including works by such lesser-known composers as Johann Nepomuk Hummel and York Bowen. On top of all this, Hough has found time to write poetry (he won the Sixth International Poetry Competition in 2008), to write a column for The Telegraph in London, to write on subjects as diverse as perfume (Nosing Around) and his own homosexuality and its relation to his creative activity, and to teach at the Royal Academy of Music in London, the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, and the Juilliard School in New York.