Judging from the repertoire on this superbly recorded BIS release, produced and engineered by Thore Brinkmann at Potton Hall in Suffolk (December 2019), Clare Hammond is a pianist who stimulates the interest of the adventurous music-lover – and then delivers top quality in spades.
Her enticing and rewarding recital opens with Szymanowski’s Variations on a Polish Theme (1904) – from a promising and rather lovely acorn grows a substantial set of glittering, soulful and bravura commentaries chock-full of character and notes, which Hammond plays with insight and superlative command. It’s a great listen in terms of the music and the performance. Following which Helmut Lachenmann’s 5 Variations on a Theme of Franz Schubert (1956) proves pithy and capricious; engaging. Variations from the Golden Mountain (2014) by Harrison Birtwistle is an absorbing study of making every note significant, drawing the listener into a spare and fastidious world of musical thought that is occasionally ruffled by craggy fortissimos and tension-releasing rapidity.
Rather different is John Adams’s I Still Play (2017) – “Satie meets Bill Evans”, advises the composer: that’s all you need to know. Adams’s attractive lightness and jazziness are then contrasted by Aaron Copland’s severe and combative Piano Variations (1930), a clangorous challenge well-worth taking, followed by Hindemith’s Variations (1936), far-reaching expression germane to this composer. Finally, Chaconne (1963) by Sofia Gubaidulina, weighty, volatile, manic and majestic. Terrific!
BIS-2493 [SACD]. Long may Clare Hammond continue to explore piano literature and expand our horizons.