The English pianist, Peter Hill, read music at Oxford gaining a Master of Arts degree, during which time he studied piano with Cyril Smith. He then continued his piano studies at the Royal College of Music with Cyril Smith, gaining the Chappell Gold Medal in 1971. Whilst at the Royal College of Music he also studied in Pareis with the famous French teacher Nadia Boulanger, who sharpened his already strong interest in contemporary classical music. in Paris, She described him as ‘…a born artist, a beautiful natural talent’ In 1974 he won first prize at a competition in Darmstadt (considered the capital of European avant-garde music at the time).
Peter Hill is a pianist well known for his playing in difficult modern works and J.S. Bach, and for his interest in East Asian music, as well as for his scholarly writing. He made his debut as pianist at Wigmore Hall, London in 1974. He has appeared at many international music festivals, including Bath, Harrogate, English Bach Festival, Dublin and Stuttgart, and since 1976 has broadcast regularly for the BBC making nearly one hundred programmes; these include the recording of the complete piano music of Arnold Schoenberg and the complete solo piano music of Messiaen. The BBC named an all-J.S. Bach recital of Hill's as one of its broadcast highlights of the year 1988.
Peter Hill has always been interested in contemporary music. He has said, ‘The turning point of my life came when I was about fourteen, when I discovered “real” twentieth-century music, via Schoenberg’s piano music which I came across in a shop in Winchester… What I discovered was that just playing a major seventh softly was extraordinarily beautiful and I played those pieces with a kind of missionary zeal.’ He was awarded a first prize at the International Centre for New Music in Darmstadt for his playing of Cage and Stockhausen, and was a founder member (with Douglas Young, Kathryn Lukas and Rohan de Saram) of Dreamtiger, the ensemble devoted to organising concerts of contemporary music. In 1992 Hill took a research fellowship at Royal Holloway College on Xenakis, but was not inspired by this composer.
Peter Hill has given many first performances by contemporary British composers. Hill has three main recital partners: violinist Peter Cropper (a member of the Lindsay String Quartet), duo-pianist partner is Benjamin Frith, and composer-pianist George Benjamin..Hill became a Jubilee Fellow at Royal Holloway College. In that capacity he wrote an important article for Tempo magazine on Western music influenced by Chinese music. This commended him to composer Brian Dennis, a composer highly affected by Chinese art and music, resulting in Hill's acclaimed performances of Dennis' works Willow Waves and the suite A Little Water Music. Hill's interest in newer music results in strikingly unusual recital programs, particularly in his concerts with Benjamin. British composers Nigel Osborne, Howard Skempton, and Douglas Young all have composed and dedicated music for him.
Peter Hill is head of the department of music at the University of Sheffield where he teaches courses in performance practice, Messiaen, Igor Stravinsky and Beethoven. He played at the first Sheffield Chamber Music Festival in 1984, and has continued to make regular appearances there. He is credited with helping revitalize music in Sheffield. His book The Messiaen Companion, published in 1994, indicates his affinity for the French composer, a composer with whom Hill studied and of whose music he has made authoritative recordings. As well as writing articles for the Musical Times and Tempo magazine, Hill has also published a book on Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and has given extremely illuminating lectures on the history, performance and recording of this work.
Peter Hill made his first solo recording, of piano music by Havergal Brian, in 1982. In 1990 he recorded one of the peaks of the piano repertoire with Beethoven’s ‘Diabelli’ Variations Op. 120. Like most of his discs it was favourably reviewed, and for his understanding and complete grasp of its overall structure is one of the best available versions of this monument of the piano literature. As with many of his recordings, Hill provides a penetrating and thought-provoking booklet essay.
However, Peter Hill is predominantly known for his recordings of 20th-century music, especially his critically praised seven-disc cycle of the piano music of Messiaen on which he received guidance from the composer. These recordings for Unicorn-Kanchana were hailed as ‘…one of the most important recording projects of recent years’ by the New York Times, putting Hill at the forefront of Messiaen interpreters; they have recently been reissued on the Regis label. His more recent discs have been made for Naxos for whom he is recording the complete works of I. Stravinsky. A disc which includes the Three Movements from Petrushka was highly praised, Fanfare magazine stating, ‘The work is almost impossible to play, and Hill - not noticeably taxed - bounds and prances through it with real élan.’ Of the whole disc, the critic concludes, ‘The playing is superb and highly enjoyable.’ The Gramophone magazine found Hill’s ‘…cool detachment and scrupulous observance of the notation works well in the Sonata’, but not in the whole of the programme. A disc of I. Stravinsky’s works for two pianos with Benjamin Frith includes the The Rite of Spring, but it was Hill’s disc of Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern that elicited the highest praise from The Gramophone. ‘These are scrupulously prepared performances… Where Pollini responds with near frenetic intensity and an excess of dazzling pianism, Hill probes with subtlety, sympathy and high intelligence.’ This disc was also selected as a recording of the year in Classic CD magazine and by The Sunday Times. One of the most under-rated of British pianists, Hill deserves a place in the front rank. Other recordings of 20th century music include: Dreamtiger: East-West Encounters; Nigel Osborne: Remembering Esenin; Piano works by Nigel Osborne, Douglas Young. Howard Skempton.
Peter Hill married Charlotte Huggins omn April 21, 1981; they have 2 daughters. He lives in Yorkshire in the North of England. Hobbies: Photography; Golf.