Guide Perspectives on the Performance of French Piano Music

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His research into the music of Messiaen made a significant contribution on an international and local level to cultural life and musical understanding, through written work for non-academic audiences, public lectures and master-classes, pre-concert and broadcast talks, and, most significantly, through the impact of that research on his and others' performances and recordings.

The scale of his contribution is indicated by the number and range of public engagements, particularly during Messiaen's centenary year , and critical acclaim and personal testimonies from professionals and the music-loving public. His work is a prime example of research informing performance, and enriching the cultural experience of the music-loving public beyond academia.

Professor Peter Hill's University of Sheffield, since ; Emeritus Professor research interests have included Stravinsky, the Second Viennese School, and the theory of musical performance, but a continuing thread since has been the French composer Olivier Messiaen — one of the foremost twentieth century composers. Studies with Messiaen himself , while recording the solo piano music, led to countless insights, but in particular a scepticism about the prevailing view of Messiaen as the composer of static or non-propulsive music see, for example, the biography by Paul Griffiths.

This involves viewing Messiaen's music especially post as a mosaic composed of structures that operate on different levels, and at the same time recognising the tonal centres established in the music that enable a sense of goal-direction. These ideas are key to Hill's own recordings [R6] and performances of Messiaen, and form the basis of his impact on other performers and the music-loving public.

The result was [R3] Messiaen with Nigel Simeone, , the first biography of the composer to relate in detail the circumstances of Messiaen's life to the evolution of his music.

1st Edition

The holdings at the BnF include one of the birdsong notebooks, which contain his transcriptions, ideas, projects and sketches of all types. Hill is the first scholar to have subjected these manuscripts to detailed scrutiny, and an inventory of their contents is nearing completion. Hill's work on the birdsong notebooks was the principal source for the book on Oiseaux Exotiques , which was the first study to trace in detail the genesis of a work by this notoriously secretive composer. In addition, Hill's research led to his discovery and reconstruction of a previously unknown work, La Fauvette Passerinette Subalpine Warbler , which is a substantial minute piece for piano in the composer's birdsong style, dating from Passages that were still in the composer's shorthand were reconstructed by cross-referencing to the notations in Messiaen's birdsong notebooks.

Bio - Marilyn Nonken

Hill's research shed light on the origins and context of this work and its relationship to Messiaen's other compositions at this time and provides a richer understanding of Messiaen's compositional development. An illustrative example of this is the way understanding Messiaen's ornithological inspirations, including Hill's discovery of the recordings of birdsong used by Messiaen, and the evolution of birdsong into musical material in Messiaen's notebooks, made it possible to get closer to Messiaen's ideas of timbre, and to what Messiaen heard within the birdsong.

Ultimately these discoveries provided insights impossible to obtain from the score alone.

These findings resonate with a wider public and have played a major part in Hill's public lectures and talks together with broadcasts on Messiaen. Peter Hill and Nigel Simeone. Messiaen , Yale University Press, Scott McCarrey and Lesley A. Wright Ashgate, Peter Hill's research has had three main types of impact: first, the research informed Hill's creation of cultural artefacts his performances, recordings, writings and broadcasts and helped preserve — and in one case discover — musical heritage, all of which enriched the cultural life of the general music-loving public; second, shaping musical education and performance interpretation of Messiaen's music beyond the University of Sheffield, through piano masterclasses, lectures, writings and recordings; and, third, economic impact from performances and recordings.

As described above, Hill's research into Messiaen's music led to new ways of interpreting the composer's work in relation to intra-musical processes goal direction versus stasis and their relationship with extramusical ideas and inspirations the relationship between the natural world and its portraiture in Messiaen's music. These new ways of thinking impacted on Hill's creative practice as a performer, both in terms of creating cultural capital — specifically the performances and reissued recordings that resulted from the research — and in terms of the particular musical expression that those performances take.

The manifestation of this research in the form of Hill's recordings and performances is particularly significant because neither Messiaen nor his wife, and primary interpreter, Yvonne Loriod, are alive anymore. Hill's exhaustive studies with, and subsequent to, Messiaen now means he has a different but equally respected and highly acclaimed interpretation. Hence, Hill's distinctive contribution to cultural life comes from the way his research enabled him to create distinctive interpretations of Messiaen's music that are received as culture- and life-enhancing.

He plays it with a fluency that extends far beyond mere technical accuracy and rhythmic precision. The pieces are thus immediately far more than abstract technical exercises, but become the richly coloured portraits from nature that Messiaen intended In further evidence of this cultural impact, his Messiaen recordings were first re-issued by Regis Records as a 7CD set in original recordings , Unicorn-Kanchana and then in reissued again by Brilliant Classics who chose Hill's version of the piano music for their complete edition of Messiaen's music.

Moreover, Hill has the distinction of three listings in Classical Recordings You Must Hear Before You Die Universe Publishing, , including one for Messiaen's Catalogue d'oiseaux original recording, ; reissued and In addition his recording of Catalogue d'oiseaux was named in The Times' "The Classical Collection" as the best recording of this work. Hill's recordings and performances are also a means by which this musical heritage is preserved. Author Lesley A.


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