The British pianist Nicolas Hodges is best known as an astute interpreter of contemporary works, no doubt because his discography is weighted heavily toward new music. But his program biography points out that as a teacher — he is a professor at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, in Stuttgart, Germany — he encourages his students to avoid specializing in either new music or the standard repertory.
At his recital at Zankel Hall on Tuesday evening he surrounded thorny scores by Frederic Rzewski and Henri Dutilleux with sonatas by Beethoven and Schumann. Mr. Hodges brought considerable energy to everything on the program, but he seemed most fully engaged by the modern scores.
In Mr. Rzewski’s “Nanosonatas,” Book I (2006), Mr. Hodges had a score that demanded ingenuity and technique, and he appeared to relish its challenges. Its seven pieces are steeped in the extremes of keyboard writing: the highest and lowest registers of the piano, a broad dynamic sweep, dense passages offset by sparseness and silence, and jackhammerlike forcefulness set beside gauzy introspection. Striking the piano percussively was required too, as was reciting lines from Genesis (the section about God’s reaction to the murder of Abel).