On 29 August 2020, the prolific contemporary pianist Nicolas Hodges will inaugurate the world premiere performance of Rebecca Saunders' Piano Concerto at the Lucerne Festival. Roche, in collaboration with the Lucerne Festival and the Lucerne Festival Academy, has awarded Rebecca Saunders their prestigious Roche Commission to enable her to compose a piano concerto for Hodges, who breaks new ground in 2018-19 with a series of world and UK premieres, including three premieres at the Wigmore Hall on 30 October and the UK premiere of Simon Steen-Andersen's Piano Concerto on 12 January.
The biannual Roche Commissions have previously been awarded to several high-profile composers, including Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Sir George Benjamin. Rather than commissioning works that will cater to mainstream fashions, Roche Commissions enables musical works to venture beyond the conventional and provide intellectual stimulation. Saunders will interact with leading scientists over the following two years and in 2020 the newly-developed commission will be premiered at the Lucerne Summer Festival. With piano soloist Hodges, the work will be performed by the Orchestra of the Lucerne Festival Academy conducted by previous Roche Commissions award-winner Matthias Pintscher.
Nicolas Hodges is an ideal collaborator for Saunders' commission. Never shying away from challenging new writing, Hodges continues to push the boundaries of modern piano music with bold and incisive performances. "He plays the classics as if they were written yesterday, and what was written yesterday as if it were already a classic." – Tempo magazine
Hodges has long encouraged the creation of new contemporary repertoire for the piano. He has premiered works by Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Thomas Adès, and Elliott Carter, lately premiering Gerard Barry's 2014 Piano Concerto in Birmingham. With an inexhaustible energy to communicate new music, Hodges has commissioned over 25 piano concertos to date. By choosing to maintain close collaborative relationships with contemporary composers, Hodges presents an extraordinary first-hand insight into the music of today.
Berlin-based composer Rebecca Saunders is one of the UK's most radical and distinguished composers, noted for her distinctive and intensely striking sonic language. Saunders' compositions have been performed from Darmstadt to the Proms, and she adds the Roche Commission to an ever-growing number of accomplishments: she is a three-time recipient of the RPS Composers Award and has received the BASCA British Composers Award twice. Saunders has already written four works for Hodges, from the solo Choler and the piano duo Crimson to Miniata, a double concerto with piano and accordion soloists, all recorded with Hodges on a 2008 CD. Saunders' piano solo Shadow, also written for Hodges, has been picked up by many pianists and is now one of her most performed works.
With 2020 still in the distant future, Hodges is determined not to rest and has a busy schedule of dates both at home and abroad in advance of the big premiere. On 24 November, Hodges will give a series of contemporary piano works in recital at the Lucerne Piano Festival, including three world premieres as part of the Christoph Delz Foundation Composition Competition. The prize winner will be chosen by judges from these three entries – by Francesco Ciurlo, Sebastian Hilli, and Eiko Tsukamoto – only after hearing Hodges perform the works in concert. Hodges is a frequent visitor to Lucerne, having first performed at the festival in 2002.
Hodges is also performing works by those who have taught and inspired Saunders, including German composer Wolfgang Rihm, the artistic director of the Lucerne Festival Academy today. By performing Rihm's works, Hodges renews a link between student and teacher, bringing his interpretation of Saunders' work as close to the composer's intentions as possible. Rihm's Zwei Linien will be performed by Hodges on 14 February in a live concert broadcast on Radio France which also includes Saunders' crimson.
Hodges' upcoming season begins with a recital at the Wigmore Hall on 30 October. He will give three premieres: the world premiere of Elisabeth Lutyens' Five Impromptus, and the UK premieres of two works written for and premiered by the pianist in Germany four years ago, James Clarke's Untitled No. 7 and Hans Thomalla's Ballade.Rauschen.
His season is completed with performances of piano concertos by Simon Steen-Andersen, Beat Furrer, and György Ligeti. On 12 January, Hodges will deliver the UK premiere of Steen-Andersen's Piano Concerto with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at Glasgow City Halls, conducted by Thomas Dausgaard. Premiered by Hodges in 2014, the concerto is a multimedia spectacle in which Hodges performs live on a shiny new Steinway, while a video doppelgänger plays a severely damaged piano which has been dropped onto a concrete floor from a height of eight metres. The juxtaposition of perfect and damaged means the listener sees both instruments in a new light.
On 2 March, Hodges returns to the Barbican to present Ligeti's Piano Concerto alongside the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sakari Oramo. On 8 March, Hodges presents Beat Furrer's Piano Concerto in Munich as part of an all-Furrer programme, with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Choir and Orchestra.