Simon Holt

Simon Holt

A Book of Colours

Performed by Rolf Hind (piano)



British composer Simon Holt has written a number of works for solo piano. The bulk of his output from 1984 to 2004 is collected on A Book of Colours, a recital disc by Rolf Hind. Perhaps for space reasons – the disc clocks in at a hefty sixty-nine minutes – Holt’s Book of Shadow (2005) has been omitted; happily, there are plans to make it available on the NMC website as a download.

The CD’s title work is a five-movement suite that embodies a wide-range of styles. Duendecitos incorporates brash verticals and rapid oscillations into a briskly flowing montage that contains frequent shifts of dynamic and tempo. Figurine explores a Feldman-esque stillness with gradual punctuations of an otherwise reposeful ambience. A Shapeless Flame adopts a more modernist demeanor, juxtaposing passages in perpetual motion with brusquely attacked interruptions. Some Distant Chimes features adeptly voiced tintinnabulations, while The thing that makes Ashes combines a bell-like ringing melody with pianissimo chords that recall the contemplations of Figurine.
More programmatic, though humorously so, is Klop’s Last Bite, which depicts a battle between Klop the bedbug and a flea. Perhaps appropriately, Holt metes out this light-hearted drama in tiny morsels, filled with character and vibrant gestures.

Tauromaquia, an attractive work inspired by Goya’s paintings of bull-fighters, suggests a debt to Messiaen’s bird-song and modes of limited transposition. Two occasional pieces, Black Lanterns and Nigredo, dedicated to, respectively, Harrison Birtwistle and Peter Maxwell Davies, possess a bristlier harmonic language. The former displays Hinds virtuosity and abundant power to maximum advantage. The latter contains these too, but intersperses vigorous music with passages of lucid tranquility in which the work lingers over the sonorities of complex sustained verticals.

Hearing Holt’s piano music inspires two hopes in this writer. First, that more of his works for larger forces will be committed to disc. And second, that he’ll keep writing pieces for Rolf Hind to play.


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