Nicolas Hodges @ Zankel Hall

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).

Read the full review in The New York Times here.

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Martha Argerich and Friends: Live from the Lugano Festival 2006

No other pianist in the musical world nurtures and promotes emerging talent with the same level of personal commitment and belief as Martha Argerich. The results of the chamber music partnerships displayed on this release demonstrate the magic which is made when these professional friends get together. Not to be missed.

This 3CD set welcomes back many familiar names from the three previous Live from the Lugano Festival releases including EMI Classics-signed pianists Gabriela Montero and Sergio Tiempo and Virgin Classics’ inimitable violin- and cello-soloist brothers, Renaud and Gautier Capuçon.

The high quality of the performances on offer on these collections is clear. For the last two years Argerich’s “Live from the Lugano Festival“ collections have been nominated for Grammy Awards – most recently for Best Classical Album and Best Chamber Music Performance in the 2007 awards.

The musical landscape is broad in this year’s collection. Alongside works by classic miniaturists Mendelssohn and Schumann sit nocturnes by the 20th-century master of the mood Debussy, in arrangements for two pianos, and works by contrasting Russian composers Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915) and Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998).

Martha Argerich and Friends return once more to Lugano this June for the sixth Martha Argerich Project at the Lugano Festival.