Kenneth Hesketh achieved something infinitely more subtle and telling in Hände, composed to accompany Stella F. Simon and Miklos Blandy’s remarkable 1928 film Hände: Das Leben und die Liebe eines Zärtlichen Geschlechts (Hands: the Life and Loves of the Gentler Sex). Hesketh had also reworked the film to aid his dramatic intentions, which considering his previous work was impressively abstract. Finnissy-like registral extremes and rhythmic uncertainty at the start yield to lengthy tracts of texture–including layers made from chords, and passages of dense counterpoint–with some delightful literal moments, such as string fingertip twangings coinciding with hands almost touching; hands and/or arms being held in place whereupon the piano becomes fixed on repeated notes; and a recurring idea on small bells, the music momentarily transcending the piano at which point the action in the film is halted and its exposure strained, as though subject to an invisible external force. Despite these fascinating devices, Hesketh to a large extent handles the ebb and flow of the drama simply through intensity of dynamic, marshalling his material as though with an organ swell pedal. Without ever making the sense of narrative concrete, it nonetheless felt uncannily moving and considerably longer than its mere 15-minute duration. Hesketh’s earlier work Notte Oscura completed the program, a rather sumptuous melding of harmonic movement within an unstable environment (faintly redolent of George Benjamin’s Piano Sonata), at the heart of which a staunchly lyrical voice is militated against and endlessly modulated by trills and tremolandi. Hammond gave splendid ambiguous shade to the work’s conclusion, rendering the nature of its peace entirely questionable. She’s easily one of the most compelling interpreters of contemporary music, filling her performances with understated fire and crystal-clear virtuosity.

July 2016
Simon Cummings

Kenneth Hesketh’s darting, phantastical score [for] an amusing fantasy from 1928 entitled Hände (Hands) had undertones of comedy and eroticism, in the way its cast of dancing hands flirted and mingled.

12 July 2016
Ivan Hewitt
The Telegraph

Pianist Claire Hammond performed music written by Kenneth Hesketh to accompany a surreal film Hände: Das Leben und die Liebe eines zärtlichen Geschlechts (Hands: The life and loves of the gentler sex) made in 1927-28 by Stella F Simon and Miklos Blandy. In the film hands grasp each other, push against each other, dance together, creep along slowly in a manner and generally assume a life of their own detached from human beings creating an eerie feel that is emphasised by Hesketh’s dark score.

17 July 2016
Cheltenham Music Festival
Roger Jones

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