Monday, December 13, 2010

Nicolas Hodges at Cal Performances

For this challenging solo recital, pianist Nicolas Hodges came on stage wearing black, fingerless gloves. Without preparation, he immediately struck the opening chords of Stockhausen's Klavierstück X with a jolt. It was soon clear that those gloves are necessary to protect his hands from the many punishing glissandos & tone clusters he has to play, sometimes with both forearms. There is a short, rolling figure that is recurring motif & that Mr. Hodges always played briskly. There are also slow sections when multiple keys are held down & the piano strings are allowed to resonate. Mr. Hodges was always very clear about how he wanted to articulate events, & he played the forearm clusters with an unexpected dynamic control. I felt confident that he was obedient to the score, but I had no idea what the emotional content of the piece might be. Mr. Hodges sustained a keen focus for its nearly 25 minutes. I felt I had witnessed an impressive physical stunt.

At intermission, a few audience members got onto the stage to examine the score but were chased off by the piano tuner. Certainly, it would have been interesting to see the Stockhausen score as a display in the lobby. In the 2nd half, Mr. Hodges again attacked the 1st chords of the Hammerklavier Sonata as soon as he got to the piano. His playing was spikey & a bit a brash, & he seemed less confident & even less fluid than in the Stockhausen. He missed notes in the 1st movement & sounded tentative a few times in the thick final movement. The 1st two movements were played as a unit. The long Adagio was stately.

Hertz Hall was less than half full, & there was some audience attrition after intermission. My concert companion, reflecting on this program & Jeremy Denk's, said that it was as if these pianists were asked to play the 2 hardest pieces they knew.

§ Nicolas Hodges, piano

Stockhausen: Klavierstück X
Beethoven: Piano Sonata Op. 106, Hammerklavier

Cal Performances
Sun, Dec 12, 3 pm
Hertz Hall

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