[...] for Hodges, there shouldn't be any barriers between the music that he believes in, be it old or new; rather, they have the ability to inspire one another [...] Always a natural pianist, he says, he played very easily quite complicated pieces at a young age: Beethoven sonatas, Schumann and Debussy when he was 11, Berg's Sonata by 13, and before his 16th birthday he was playing Schoenberg and Webern. And exposure to new ideas in his formative years nurtured an enthusiasm for the most pioneering music.
- Interview with Colin Anderson in International Piano (September-October 2006)
"The British pianist, composer, and professor Nicolas Hodges has carved out a niche as the ideal test-pilot for cutting-edge modernist works, and when Harrison Birtwistle wants to launch a new piano piece, there’s no question of anyone else being allowed to premiere it. ‘He’s becoming like my Peter Pears,’ said Sir Harry last year, as he entrusted Hodges with his dauntingly complex Gigue Machine."
(Michael Church for The Independant, September 2014)
"[...] his reading was one of tremendous insight and attention to detail. His sensitive approach brought clarity to the various interlocking strands of material which together made up a dense, knotted polyphony, and he succeeded not just in scaling the work’s significant technical demands but also in finding the latent lyricism in amongst its many violent outbursts."
(Sam Wigglesworth for Bachtrack, November 2012)
"Hodges' recitals always boldly go where few other pianists dare [...] with an energy that sometimes defies belief."
(Andrew Clements for The Guardian, June 2000)
"Mr. Hodges has a quiet and thoughtful presence at the keyboard – somewhat uncertain at times, but it’s always appreciated when a pianist seems to lend gravity to even the most minute details in the score. Sensitivity will always prevail over showiness in my book."
(Rebecca Lentjes for Bachtrack, January 2013)
Nicolas Hodges was born in 1970 in London and received his education at Christ Church Cathedral School in Oxford, where he was a chorister, then Winchester College and the University of Cambridge. He studied the piano with Robert Bottone at Winchester, then with Boulez-student Susan Bradshaw and Sulamita Aronovsky, who is connected to the Russian piano school, and composition with Robin Holloway and Michael Finnissy.
Nicolas Hodges’ father was a keen amateur musician and was a BBC studio manager in the late 1960s when Stockhausen convinced the BBC Symphony Orchestra to improvise. Nicolas Hodges’ childhood and teenage years were surrounded by modern and contemporary music: he learnt the works of Webern, Schoenberg and Berg at school and a copy of 4’33’’, John Cage’s silent piece, sat on a bookshelf at home.
His repertoire encompasses such composers as Debussy, Schubert, Beethoven, Brahms, Berg and Stravinsky. Nicolas Hodges specializes in avant-garde music: his first record was of the complete piano works of the British composer Bill Hopkins.
He has recorded music by many contemporary and recent composers amongst whom John Adams, Justin Connolly, Beat Furrer, Michael Finnissy and Brian Ferneyhough. Many composers have written music especially for him to perform, most notably Konrad Boehmer, Jeroen Speak, James Clarke, Helmut Lachenmann, Salvatore Sciarrino and Michael Finnissy.
Dialogues for Piano and Orchestra, his collaboration with Elliott Carter, aged 90 at the time, which was said would never happen, premiered in 2004. They lived on different continents and there were many other pianists who wanted music from the American composer. Nicolas Hodges recalls: "What I learnt from him was the importance of treating his music like wind instrument lines – not staccato and unvocal."
Nicolas Hodges and Harrison Birtwistle first met in 1987, but their fruitful collaboration did not blossom until 17 years later, when he persuaded the composer to let him work on The Axe Manual, a work then withdrawn by Birtwistle. The composer is used to have close relationships with performers, like clarinettist Alan Hacker and trumpeter and conductor Elgar Howarth. Nicolas Hodges is the latest, becoming Harrison Birtwistle’s preferred pianist. When asked about the level of difficulty in those works, Nicolas Hodges says: "People say it’s ‘challenging’ to do contemporary music, but it’s hugely difficult to produce performances of any classical piano music worth doing [...] All great music is ‘difficult’ in one way or another. It just happens that I’m more at home with the difficulties of modern music than most others are."
Nicolas Hodges has collaborated with many renowned conductors, including Thomas Adès, Marin Alsop, Daniel Barenboim, George Benjamin, Martyn Brabbins, Sylvain Cambreling, Hans Graf, James Levine, Susanna Mälkki, Cornelius Meister, Jonathan Nott, Tadaaki Otaka, Emilio Pomarico, David Robertson, Pascal Rophé, François-Xavier Roth, Peter Rundel, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Leonard Slatkin, Pierre-André Valade, Ilan Volkov and Ryan Wigglesworth.
In chamber music, Nicolas Hodges collaborates with the Arditti Quartet, Adrian Brendel, Colin Currie, Ilya Gringolts, Anssi Karttunen, Michael Wendeberg, Carolin Widmann, and as a member of the Trio Accanto.
Nicolas Hodges has performed, whether as a recitalist or as a concerto soloist, in venues all around the world, including Carnegie Hall in New York, Wigmore Hall in London, or IRCAM in Paris. He has also appeared at many festivals, such as the BBC Proms, the Musikfest in Berlin, Mostly Mozart in New York, Wien Modern in Vienna, and many more.
Nicolas Hodges is now based in Germany, being Professor of Piano at the Musikhochschule Stuttgart, one of Germany’s leading conservatoires, since 2005.