After studies in piano and composition at the RCM London and in Los Angeles, for fifteen years Rolf focused solely on working as a pianist: he has collaborated with Messiaen, Berio, Ligeti, Kurtag, Tan Dun, John Adams, Thomas Ades, Helmut Lachenmann, Unsuk Chin, Liza Lim, Karen Tanaka, Judith Weir, Elliott Carter, Rebecca Saunders, George Benjamin, James MacMillan…. and he has premiered hundreds of new pieces.
He began to compose again in the year 2000, inspired by momentous life-changes and several visits to India, which has been a big part of his life since. Large-scale compositions include a piano concerto, Maya-Sesha (nominated for a British Composer’s Award) and a concerto for accordion, The Tiniest House of Time, premiered at London’s Barbican Centre with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Much of his music is indeed inspired by India – its languages, philosophy, landscapes and culture – while often also drawing on the technical adventurousness of performers, including himself. Largest-scale amongst these is the hour-long On What Weft Are Woven The Waters, for //hcmf 2017.
His works have been played widely in Europe, the US and Asia, with conductors such as Martyn Brabbins, James MacMillan, Jessica Cottis and Jakub Hrusa.
His first “opera”, Lost in Thought, a ‘Mindfulness opera’ lasting four hours – a serious attempt to fuse elements of sung theatre and a Vipassana retreat – was commissioned by Mahogany Opera Group and premiered at The Barbican in London. Current composition plans include an operatic project about the poet Sufi Rumi, working with Rolf’s long-time collaborator Frederick Wake-Walker and the Anglo-US poet Dante Micheaux.
His large-scale piece The Secret Names, setting Roberto Calasso’s breathtaking writing on the Vedas, is to be premiered by the BBC Singers and the cellist Robin Michael in April 2023, and a new work for Elaine Mitchener and the ensemble Apartment House at the Wigmore Hall in April 2024.