Peter Hill, pianist and writer

PETER HILL studied the classical repertoire with Cyril Smith at the Royal College of Music, and with Nadia Boulanger, who described him as 'a born artist, a beautiful natural talent'. He won the senior recital prize at the RCM, and the performance prize at Darmstadt for his playing of Cage and Stockhausen. His recordings of twentieth-century and contemporary music have received superlative acclaim. For his complete Messiaen cycle Peter Hill worked with Messiaen at his home in Paris: the recording has been described as ‘one of the most impressive solo recording projects of recent years’ (New York Times) and received Messiaen’s endorsement – 'Beautiful technique, a true poet: I am a passionate admirer of Peter Hill's playing.’ Critics have referred to the series as 'a classic of dedicated virtuosity' (The Times), 'incredible: Hill's strengths are virtuoso control and consummate rhythmic delineating ... in Hill's hands I feel I am getting the composer at his purest and most intense' (Fanfare, USA), or 'remarkable for its accuracy, sense of atmosphere and sheer dynamism … some of the finest Messiaen playing ever to have gone down on disc' (Sunday Telegraph). The Messiaen cycle has been re-released by Regis and by Brilliant Classics.

The recording of Messiaen’s Catalogue d’oiseaux is one of three recordings listed in 1001 Classical Recordings You Must Hear Before You Die, the others being of Schoenberg’s Three Piano Pieces Op 11 and Suite Op 25 from a CD of the complete piano music of Berg, Schoenberg and Webern which was a recording of the year in The Sunday Times and Editor’s Choice in Gramophone. Among other CDs are recordings made with Benjamin Frith (Peter Hill's regular duo partner) of Messiaen's Visions de l'Amen and two CDs of Stravinsky, including the composer's arrangements of The Rite of Spring and Three Movements from Petrushka. Peter’s recent recording of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (Delphian), the first in a planned series of Bach recordings for Delphian, has received outstanding reviews, with Book II chosen as CD of the Week by BBC Radio 3.

Books include The Messiaen Companion (Fabers), and Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (CUP). Research on Messiaen led to a biography of the composer (Messiaen), published by Yale University Press in 2005, and reissued in translation in Germany (Schott) and in France (Fayard). Olivier Messiaen: Oiseaux exotiques (Ashgate) was published in 2007. Peter’s research on Messiaen continues, and a book on the Catalogue d’oiseaux (co-authored with Roderick Chadwick) is in preparation.

Much in demand for lectures and masterclasses, recent appearances include the Australian National Academy of Music, Brisbane Conservatorium, University of Western Australia, University of Chicago, Boston University, New York University, the Juilliard School of Music, Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, McGill University, Uppsala University, the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, the Norwegian Academy of Music and the Lucerne Festival, as well as almost all the leading universities and conservatoires in the UK.

In 2008 Peter was awarded the annual prize for musical scholarship by the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He holds an honorary professorship at Sheffield University and is a Fellow of the Royal Northern College of Music.


  • A classic of dedicated virtuosity. The Times

  • This is beautiful music and beautiful piano playing too. I listened entranced. Gramophone

  • Quite extraordinarily beautiful and right. The Times

  • One of the most impressive solo recording projects of recent years. New York Times

  • This was a dazzling display of both technical and intellectual brilliance. Guardian

  • Not just accurate it was thrilling … a great evening. Independent

  • An absolute glory from the great pianist. Herald Scotland

  • A treat for ear and mind. Sunday Times

  • Among the most intelligent and imaginative performances of this repertoire in the catalogue. The Times

Peter Hill in concert

Hill is a pianist who showed himself throughout the recital to be a superlative communicator, but here above all he held the whole audience enraptured … The urge to applaud afterwards was usurped by the fear of breaking the special atmosphere he had created. Musical Times

Peter Hill does not just give concerts, he also enriches one’s life with perceptive introductions that illuminate the music, however well you may think you know it … This was one of those rare musical events at which it was a privilege to be present. Words which came into my mind while I listened – awesome power, rapt contemplation, hypnotic, incredible virtuosity, astonishing intellectual grasp – can give only a vague indication of the mind-blowing experience … When it was over few doubted we had been treated to a master performance. Yorkshire Post

It was thrilling the way Hill contrasted crystal-clear movements with sharply accentuated cascades of rhythm and powerful clusters of chords. Due to his virtuosity at the piano it all had the effect of being extremely spontaneous. Moreover the decisive quality of this recital was that he finely balanced shimmering layers of sound with intricate structures. Neue Luzerner Zeitung

… not just accurate, it was thrilling, with Hill taking the top part visibly twitching with nervous excitement. A great evening. Independent

The piano partnership of Peter Hill and Benjamin Frith is a formidable one. The recordings are authoritative and the impact of their live performance is extraordinary. This was a dazzling display of both technical and intellectual brilliance … The evening’s high point was Messiaen’s ecstatic cycle for two pianos, Visions de l’Amen. The playing was so vivid that the air seemed to fill with the sweet smell of incense and the joyful clamour of birdsong and exotic gongs. There was a tenderness and sensuality in the lyrical phrases but, in the hands of Hill and Frith, it was the florid rhythmic exuberance and cumulative force of Messiaen’s impassioned testimonies to divine power that made this so compelling. Audience and performers alike seemed stunned but elated by the experience. Guardian