Concert Review

Notes for Pierre Rolf Hind (piano) Queen Elisabeth Hall & Instant CD, 26 March 2000


Pierre Boulez celebrated his actual 75th birthday in London, receiving a unique present during the Celebrating Pierre weekend at South Bank Centre. Boulez will be remembered as a key innovator, and amongst his compositions Répons for instruments with live electronics is likely to survive as a memorial to his work at IRCAM in Paris. For the Sunday afternoon concert, the London Sinfonietta gave his exotic sur incises (1998) for three each of pianos, harps and tuned percussion, elaborated from an earlier short piano piece Incises, which was played by John Constable to precede it.

But attention was focussed upon twelve premieres in the second half, piano pieces commissioned for the occasion from twelve notable composers, most of them leading figures of the time, and all present to hear their pieces played by the astonishing Rolf Hind, who can play most new music, however difficult, virtually at sight. These proved to be more substantial than is common for collections of this type and, played in sequence without a break, added up to an enthralling forty minutes of music. In the programme book, each wrote Pierre Boulez a personal message of admiration on the occasion.

But the occasion was most memorable for a technological breakthrough of a type which must be close to Boulez's heart. All members of the audience, which packed the hall, were offered an instant free CD of the performance they had just enjoyed, digitally recorded by BBC Radio 3, and immediately afterwards multiplied (X 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and so on) so that a half-an-hour later they were ready for distribution in a limited promotional edition, not for public sale. The RFH collaborated with the BBC, becoming the first organisation to provide concert-goers with an immediate CD record of a live performance.

Seen&Heard salutes this landmark achievement, which required also the collaboration of a number of publishers, and is glad to note that the South Bank Centre intends to develop this new technological capability in the future. As to the new piano pieces, their enthusiastic reception should ensure that in due course they will become available on CD commercially, when there will be an opportunity for detailed review on Music on the Web.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Marc Bridle adds:-

There cannot have been many concerts with twelve world premieres within 40 minutes. Miniatures they may have been, but all were quite substantial in their own right, and the CD of this concert confirms what a wonderful present they were for Pierre Boulez's 75th birthday.

Rolf Hind played these pieces marvellously - and some had only arrived within days of the concert. To receive a densely packed score by fax and learn it on a flight from New Zealand is no mean achievement! That the pages of Mr Hind's scores were covered in red ink suggested he had had time to mark his own illuminations on the composers' thoughts, and in some pieces, notably Kurtag's Hommage à Pierre Boulez, one was given the impression of almost complete mastery of the composer's wishes. George Benjamin's Dérive 75, on a single, hand-written, barely ink-dried sheet was short - but transposed recognisable melodies from Boulez's own Dérive, with a quote from Éclat placed in the centre. Magnus Lindberg's Jubilee was vast and fugal, Birtwistle's Ostinato cleverly repetitive, Elliott Carter's Retrouvailles, perhaps the King of the pack, with its sonorous sound world. Wolfgang Rihm's Auf einem anderen Blatt, the most introspective of the works, was somnambulant and dreamy in equal measure.

Rolf Hind produced superb sounds from his piano - whether from the lowest or highest reaches of the keyboard. A memorable afternoon that I shall be able to listen to often, courtesy of the SBC and BBC.

Marc Bridle

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