Light, Design and Concept for Pavel Kolesnikov at the Aldeburgh Festival, Suffolk, June 10, 2023

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“Light is a wave and so is sound. A piano is a boat, a spaceship, a dreamy discoverer of wonder worlds… this performance is an ode to the night sky, to the vastness of space, to that pure silent light that travels from the other side of the universe to reach an eye, yours or mine, and to make us wonder.” Pavel Kolesnikov.

Britten Pears Arts Aldeburgh Festival 2023 featured musician Pavel Kolesnikov who has made a name for himself as one of the acclaimed pianists of our time, and also as a creative thinker, programmer and curious mind. He specially conceived this programme for the Aldeburgh Festival as an elegy to Joseph Cornell and his art work, Celestial Navigation. Cornell’s art work invokes the myths, images, and theories once used to explain the predictable yet baffling patterns of the night sky. The boxed objects present an ordered, though perhaps not entirely knowable, universe.

Sophie Hicks Architects collaborated closely with Pavel to create a spatial and visual experience in the same ‘tender, mysterious and joyful’ language of Cornell which inspired Pavel in the curation of the music programme.

Our light, design and visual concept evolved through Pavel’s fascination with Cornell’s constant bringing together of the seemingly known and the unknown, of this ancient juxtaposition of cataloguing the unexplainable, expressing simultaneously Pavel’s personal desire to step outside the box of the traditional classical music concert and to offer instead a journey into a possible new world.

Pavel Kolesnikov, Piano
Sophie Hicks Architects, Light, design and concept development
Martin Crimp, Text
Fiona Simpson, Lighting
Patrick Young, Filming
Matt Jolly, Film editing
Tom Taylor, Vision mixer


Couperin (c.1626–1661) Pavanne in F sharp minor

Messiaen (1908–1992) Regard de l’étoile from Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant- Jésus (1944)

Chopin (1810–1849) Nocturne in D fat, Op.27 No.2 (1835)

Messiaen Regard de l’étoile [fragment]


Messiaen La colombe, from Preludes (1928–29)

Chopin Nocturne in E minor, Op.72 No.1 (c.1829)

Messiaen La colombe [fragment]


Messiaen Prélude (1964)

Chopin Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op.27 No.1 (1835)

Messiaen Prélude (1964) [fragment]


Ravel (1875–1937) Une barque sur l’océan from Miroirs (1905)

Thomas Adès (b.1971) Darknesse Visible (1992)

Schubert (1797–1828) Four Impromptus, D.935 (1827)

“Mesmerising … Pavel Kolesnikov’s Celestial Navigation at the Aldeburgh festival.

Pianist Pavel Kolesnikov’s artistry is consummate, but he is also a thinker, always questioning and pushing boundaries. Inspired by the artist Joseph Cornell’s Celestial Navigation, his performance had no premieres, but it offered a remarkable frst in terms of his approach to presenting music, a collaboration involving light and design from architect Sophie Hicks with text curated by Martin Crimp. In a darkened Snape Maltings, with the evocative projections of sun and moon seen on the back wall – its proportions mirroring the box in which Cornell created his piece – sequences of music by Couperin, Messiaen, Chopin, Thomas Adès and later Schubert were simply mesmerising. With his back to the audience – no trace of ego but some gestures catching the light to give a more theatrical feel than usual – Kolesnikov’s playing was exquisite.”

The Guardian, 12 June 2023


Full review, The Guardian > Thoroughy Good Classical Music >


Britten Pears Arts is a large music education organisation based in Suffolk, England. It aims to continue the legacy of composer Benjamin Britten and his partner, singer Peter Pears, and to promote the enjoyment and experience of music for all. The Aldeburgh Festival has been a pilgrimage for lovers of classical music and culture since 1948. Every June it brings together new commissions, world-premieres and international stars on the stretch of Suffolk Coast which so bewitched its founder, Benjamin Britten.

Photographs courtesy of (c) Britten Pears Arts