Sonata No.4 for Prepared Piano
Sonata No.2 for Prepared Piano
Préludes Book II La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune; Ondine
Sonata No.5 for Prepared Piano
Sonata No.6 for Prepared Piano
Sechs kleine Klavierstücke, Op.19
Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano Interlude No.3
Etudes, Book 2 Pour les sonorités opposées; Pour les degrés chromatiques
Préludes flasques (pour un chien)
Sonata Nos.14 & 15 (Gemini) for Prepared Piano
Rolf Hind (piano and prepared piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 6 February, 2006
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
This was an extremely stimulating and colourful Wigmore Hall recital, remarkable in its stylistic daring considering none of these pieces date from later than 1948. It was performed with great sensitivity, care and involvement by the shoeless pianist, of which more later. The programme divided neatly into three.
Rolf Hind’s control was a principal feature of the opening group of pieces, the coolness and subtle shading of Satie’s first Gnossienne an upbeat to the extraordinary soundworld of John Cage’s prepared piano. Hind had been at the venue early on to adjust the instrument to the required specification, and the Fourth Sonata did him full justice with its gently undulating lower register and treble line like a bell blowing in the wind. After a highly colourful rendition of the Second Sonata, Hind returned to the non-treated instrument for a wonderfully atmospheric pair of Debussy Préludes, La terrasse shimmering over lightly brushed lower notes, Ondine standing out for its extreme clarity and attention to detail.
Cage book-ended Schoenberg in the second part of the programme, the latter’s brief but focussed Klavierstücke white hot in their intensity. Hind merely tapped out the consonant thirds of the second piece, while the sixth had a beautifully mysterious haze, the audience barely moving in the stillness of the hall. This highly intimate music was balanced by the swaying rhythms of Cage’s Fifth Sonata and the spread motif of the Sixth that seemed to hang in the air. The Third Interlude brought extremities of touch from an aggressive trill to a hushed pianissimo, usually in the course of the same phrase, Hind more than equal to the task.
And the socks? Well, Hind’s use of these removed any chance of extraneous noise for the live Radio 3 broadcast, and as he moved silently again between the two pianos we had the chance to compare and contrast Debussy, Satie and Cage. Satie’s Préludes flasques brought light humour and a stately promenade, with a thoughtful and meditative Third Gnossienne to finish. The two Debussy Etudes were strikingly characterised, lightness of touch once again a feature, but in Sonorités this did not underpower the climax. Meanwhile, the whirling figuration of the chromatic study was expertly handled – though here the right-hand seemed just a shade too dominant.
Cage had the final say, Sonatas 14 and 15 clearly evoking the gamelan, performed together as a lightly oscillating piece of music, the only time Hind used the score, and was enchanting in its meandering, watery figuration. As the last notes stopped suddenly and hung in the air, the audience was silent for a moment before applauding. Hind had taken us on a journey of innovative, exotic piano music: it was a privilege to be led on that journey.