• Sit, Stand, Walk

Yesterday, I got in from a convivial evening with friends at the Rising Sun near Altarnun just in time to catch Radio 3’s late-night Hear And Now, a broadcast of a brilliant concert from this year’s Spitalfields Festival.  It was given by Chroma and featured works by Param Vir (Hayagriva) and Jonathan Harvey (Sringara Chaconne).  But for me the highlights were two works by Rolf Hind: Horse Sacrifice (2001) and the premiere of Sit, Stand, Walk (2011).

photo: Alys Tomlinson

I should declare an interest here: Rolf spent nine days in Cornwall in July 2010, meditating intensely indoors and outdoors (though not on a deckchair, as I recall).  More importantly, he composed one of the movements of Sit, Stand, Walk in my music room.  His stay has spurred me on to get quotes for converting the garage into a proper studio where artists of any discipline can come and be creative away from their normal hustle and bustle.

I first met Rolf when he came to give a recital at Queen’s University, Belfast, in the mid-1980s.  I’ve never forgotten his stunning performances of Beethoven, Copland and Carter sonatas that evening.  Few pianists can match his total dedication to new music and it’s no wonder that composers specifically ask to work with him, knowing that he’ll get to the heart of their music, both interpretatively and technically.  So it’s great that the tables are now turning and performers are asking to work on his own growing output as a composer.

He has a distinctive voice that comes in large part, I suspect, from the tough demands that he makes on himself in his Buddhist meditation.  He also has an acute ear for the delicate balance of musical continuities and discontinuities, for ritual and for unusual instrumental sonorities and combinations.  The solo-ensemble drama of Horse Sacrifice played out like a miniature concerto, deft, expressive and perfectly formed, with a particularly atmospheric final movement.

Ten years on, Sit, Stand, Walk revisits the concerto principle, this time with the clarinet (a virtuosic performance from Stewart King) as protagonist.  This was even more like a journey of the soul, revealing the interior through tender antiphony (or antiphonal tenderness?) between the soloist and the slowly-gathering reflectors of the other instruments.  The ritualistic punctuation of the percussion was offset by unexpected colours, especially that of the accordion, which whetted the appetite for Rolf’s forthcoming accordion concerto (for James Crabb and the BBCSO).  This was a haunting exploration of the experience of meditation, completed by a brief fourth movement ‘Open’, which the composer rightly called ‘an exponential explosion of joy’.  A great piece and a fascinating concert of meditation-inspired pieces, though perhaps before midnight on a Saturday was not the most ideal placing!

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