Clare Hammond

Piano

"Hammond keeps us enthralled to the last bar"

The Telegraph

"A pianist of extraordinary gifts"

Gramophone Magazine

"A star interpreter of contemporary music"

The Observer

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Acclaimed as a “pianist of extraordinary gifts” (Gramophone) and “immense power” (The Times), Clare Hammond is recognised for the virtuosity and authority of her performances. In 2016, she won the Royal Philharmonic Society's 'Young Artist Award' in recognition of outstanding achievement. Recent highlights include Grieg Piano Concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Moussa and Carwithen with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Concert Orchestra, Panufnik with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, and recitals at the Aldeburgh Festival, Palazzetto Bru Zane in Venice (broadcast on RAI 3), Husum Festival in Germany, and in Denmark and Norway with Henning Kraggerud.

This season she looks forward to performing Grace Williams’ Sinfonia Concertante with Jac van Steen and BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Rachmaninoff Paganini Variations with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Lionel Bringuier, works by Piers Hellawell and Samy Moussa with the Ulster Orchestra and Jamie Phillips, and recitals at the Wigmore Hall, London’s National Gallery, Lammermuir Festival and Festival Baroque de Pontoise, among others. She brings Ghosts and Whispers, a performance piece for piano and film with composer John Woolrich and animators the Quay Brothers, to Fundación Juan March and to the Barbican, and continues her collaboration with actor and writer Tama Matheson.

Clare’s discs for BIS have been widely praised, most recently releasing an album of Etudes by visionary French composer Hélène de Montgeroult. A disc of 20th- and 21st-century variations was released in 2021, and received extensive critical approval for Clare’s “shimmering pianism and lightly-worn virtuosity” (BBC Music Magazine) and “artistry of the highest order” (Musical Opinion), while Crescendo (Belgium) hailed her as “one of the most exploratory pianistic personalities of our time”.

Clare completed a BA at Cambridge University, where she obtained a double first in music, and undertook postgraduate study with Ronan O’Hora at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.

Hélène de Montgeroult: Etudes

BIS Records, November 2022

Where will Clare Hammond pop up next? If she is not championing new works and recording their world premieres, she is appearing as the young Miss Shepherd in the film of Alan Bennett's 'The Lady in the Van' or giving us the complete music for keyboard by Josef Myslivecek. Now she turns her attention to the extraordinary Hélène-Antoinette-Marie de Nervo de Montgeroult...[Hammond's notes are] elegantly written and diligently researched [and in] her judiciously ordered selection, you might detect prescient hints of Schumann, Brahms or even Debussy...These are no dull finger drills but studies which combine technical exercises with music of depth and poetry. Nimbly executed, sensitively phrased, and beautifully recorded, Clare Hammond has left all pianophiles in her debt...An early contender for next year's Gramophone Awards"

Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone Magazine *Editors Choice*

Two possible surprises lurk in my album of the week. One is that the pianist Clare Hammond, noted for her muscular power, can also touch the keys as if stroking a Siamese cat. The bigger surprise may come from the music: 29 études by Hélène de Montgeroult, a noblewoman who supposedly avoided jail during the French Revolution by moving her judges to tears after improvising variations on “La Marseillaise”...

Listening to the subtle simplicity of this music (first rediscovered in the 1990s), I almost shed a tear myself. Conceived as technical exercises in playing with crossed hands and other niceties, these pieces reveal an imagination and vitality that easily lift them onto a higher plane.

For music published in 1816 and chiefly written some time before, it’s also adventurous music, tied to classical forms yet with a romantic spirit recalling later figures like Mendelssohn and Schumann. Above all, this is music of very high quality; and it falls under Hammond’s fingers with a thoughtful beauty that should make many new friends both for herself and for the composer she so excellently serves.

Geoff Brown, The Times ****

Clare Hammond's selection is well chosen and suitably contrasted, a fine representation of a composer whose music is more akin to early Chopin than to Mozart or Beethoven. These are seriously demanding pieces, yet Hammond delivers them with a smooth and mellifluous touch, capturing the music's twilit subtleties and silken textures as if it's second nature...it draws you in and exerts a fascinating magnetism. Hopefully this valuable project should lead to further exploration of her works.

Jessica Duchen, BBC Music Magazine ****

The British pianist Clare Hammond shows that this miniature form has artistic worth, as well as the pedagogic value the name implies...Often songlike in the right hand, with turbulent, pulsating left hand accompaniments (as in No 107 in D minor), Montgeroult encapsulates the musical journey from classical to romantic, her artistic compass firmly pointing forward.

Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian

Clare Hammond plays this survey with great insight and skill, [and] also provides the excellent and informative liner note.... Gently melancholic Romanticism is prevalent across a number of the studies chosen by Hammond. She plays these with great sensitivity and just the right amount of expressive freedom as well as the requisite technical sophistication. In this she is helped by BIS’ typically reliable, fine and detailed SACD engineering. The use of Nimbus’ Wyastone Concert Hall and the Steinway D concert grand piano ensures this is a rich and full-toned soundscape...this is a hugely enjoyable and impressive disc both in terms of the music it presents and the care and skill with which it is performed. This music is of a quality and interest that transcends questions of gender or historical quirk. That it was neglected is a genuine mystery but now that it has emerged from the shadows I would fully expect this music and the name of its composer to become a much more regular feature both in the concert hall and on disc. An exciting discovery and a compulsory purchase for anyone interested in the evolution of piano music in the early 19th century.

Nick Barnard, MusicWeb International

“How can music of this quality and vision be forgotten so comprehensively for so long?”, asks pianist Clare Hammond. It is the right question...these Études, and particularly in Hammond’s readings, make the case well that de Montgeroult really is an important missing link between the classical period and Chopin and Schumann...
There is an astonishing variety of texture here: No. 34 (to give suppleness to the fingers) immediately followed by No. 28 (to play a melody with its accompaniment in the same hand) are both gloriously melodic, and really do sound like lyrical Schumann. No. 55 clearly pre-figures Chopin, and No. 65 is a fast-fingered firework display. I was completely taken by the case Hammond makes for No. 62 (Study for the left hand. Pour apprendre à chanter en se croisant sur la droite / "to learn to play melodically crossing to the right") which has some superbly executed hand-crossing and a lovely dialogue between the low voice and the higher voice. A wonderful collection of unfamiliar music, full of agreeable surprises, and with some true gems to uncover.

Sebastian Scotney, The Arts Desk

A beautiful selection...beautiful music, wonderfully recorded...[Hammond's] brilliant performances are clearly the result of deep reflection.

Colin Clarke, International Piano

Clare Hammond, whose previous disc Variations proved a particular favourite, has now brought us a revelatory recording of 29 Études by Montgeroult, which we must again hope will help to restore the composer’s fortunes with today’s audiences... As for the musical finesse, commitment and technical command of Hammond’s marvellous performances, Montgeroult could surely not hope for a more brilliant exponent. This is an important and hugely enjoyable release, superbly recorded and delivered, and should not be missed.

Piano Dao - Recordings of the Month October 2022

A complete revelation...Hammond has absorbed her soundworld and performs these gems with nuance, warmth and virtuosic fluidity throughout. Given that there are 29 études from the 114 here, there is surely scope for a follow-up, which would be greatly welcomed....her adventurous harmonies, complexity of texture, tempo changes and singing melodies, are foretastes of what we hear in the Romantic composers that followed her. The études were composed from around 1788 to 1812, by which time Schumann and Chopin were just 2 and Mendelssohn 3 years old. Yet if you didn’t know otherwise, the singing melodies over perpetual motion accompaniment of Études nos. 26 and 41, or the dancing energy or percussive textures of nos. 35 & 65, or the virtuosic trilling and insistent rhythmic energy of nos. 100 & 103, could be mistaken for Mendelssohn, Schubert or Chopin respectively. There are Beethovenian bagatalles, Field-like nocturnes, poignancy foreshadowing late Schubert, and even Brahmsian impromptus. Yet there is a clear individuality too in her expressive use of melody and her dense, rapid-moving textures.

Classical Notes

They are much more than exercises, pointing the way to Chopin’s works in the genre and, as Hammond rightly notes, coming very close to the sound world of John Field. The pieces are fastidious, elegant and testing – designed to stretch the player’s technique while teaching how to maintain a musical line, however hard the finger work. Each has a description of the particular quality Mongeroult is looking for the student to achieve. It will not be a shock to find that Clare Hammond passes these tests with consummate ease. She has just the right measure of relentless definition leavened by musical sensitivity to lift the music miles above its pedagogic function...The real glory is Hammond’s devotion to this music and her immaculate pianism. She is a pianist in a thousand and we can be grateful that there are 85 more Montgeroult études to record, quite apart from the rest of her work. It makes me believe too that Hammond may be maturing into a top rank interpreter of the early 19th century repertoire as well as the fearsome contemporary works with which she has been most associated up to now. More soon, please!

Present Arts

Clare Hammond was introduced to Montgeroult’s music as recently as 2019, and she used the opportunity given by the Covid lockdowns to make an intensive study of the composer’s music, carefully searching for the ideal balance between the singing tone which Montgeroult so valued (again anticipating Chopin) and the richness of harmonic shading and heightened expression...Hammond’s selection of 29 Études – roughly a quarter of the total collection – contains plenty of examples of their composer’s extraordinary inventiveness and depth of expression. Some of these pieces are intended to focus on strengthening the capability of the left or right hand in particular, others more generally with achieving tonal suppleness and dexterity, yet none come across as mere exercises – a tribute not just to Montgeroult’s visionary talent, but to Hammond’s own careful honing in repertoire that is still scarcely explored by most pianists. Dip into this disc at any point and you are likely to be amazed, as we were, by the extraordinary richness and variety of expression... Time and again, you’ll find yourself pinching yourself to realise that these pieces are not better known. Among our own particular favourites are the Schubertian expressivity and textures of No.62 in E flat and No.97 in G minor. But above all, it is the marriage of true cantabile tone and a heightened proto-Romantic sensibility that makes this collection – and Hammond’s performances – so unnervingly astonishing. No doubt at some point soon someone will record the complete collection of Montgeroult’s Études, but it is unlikely that they will match, let alone surpass, Clare Hammond’s achievement on this marvellously recorded new album from BIS. At a time when any minor scraps by great or neglected composers are hailed as discoveries, Hélène de Montgeroult is the real deal: absolutely essential listening, and not just for pianophiles.

Europadisc

Grace Williams: Sinfonia Concertante with BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Jac van Steen

Hoddinott Hall, 22nd September 2022

Though dead for 45 years, the influence of Grace Williams over Welsh composers still looms large... Hammond, ever the form of grace, has golden hands that play eternal, her commitment to female composers is also noteworthy. Grace’s ghost seemed to approve and stole the limelight from our living composers.

James Ellis, Buzzmag Cardiff

Don Juan: The Brilliant Irreverence of Lord Byron concert-play

OSO Theatre Barnes, February 2022

Some people are born simply too talented...pianist Clare Hammond performed works by Beethoven, Debussy and others in between playing three female roles on stage, earning praise for her fantastic acting skills

BBC Music Magazine

Variations

BIS Records, February 2021

Hammond keeps us enthralled to the last bar

Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph

In a relatively short time, Clare Hammond has established herself as a pianist of impressive abilities who avidly explores repertory of the past century, along with the music of her contemporaries...Hammond’s grasp of this formidable intellectual edifice is secure throughout, abetted by a beguiling colour palette, unfailing textural clarity and plenty of rhythmic vigour...Ultimately this is a richly wide-ranging, deftly chosen programme, exhibiting intellectual curiosity and probity, played by a pianist of extraordinary gifts. Hammond also supplies her own keenly intelligent annotations. Highly recommended.

Patrick Rucker, Gramophone

Hammond still exudes the air of someone who sprinkles her morning cereal with iron filings, but these days her hard determination lies less in the fingers than in her rigorous appetite for unfamiliar music....A player of immense power, tightly harnessed now to the moment’s expressive need...you emerge from this album largely refreshed and enlightened by her formidable technique, lack of preening and insatiable repertoire probing. And her neatest discovery? Surely it’s Helmut Lachenmann’s unusually benign Schubert Variations of 1956, an early work that never once suggests his later amazing activities subjecting instrumental sounds to the equivalent of vivisection.

Geoff Brown, The Times

Shimmering pianism and lightly-worn virtuosity

Paul Riley, BBC Music Magazine

The displays of invention can be dazzling, especially in the way Hammond programmes them

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer

This is an impeccably programmed album of variations from the 20th and 21st centuries...The Birtwistle is laudably unhurried, with Hammond again finding beauty in dissonance...A questing, highly intelligent pianist… stunningly recorded at the height of her powers

Colin Clarke, International Piano

One of the most exploratory pianistic personalities of our time

Jean Lacroix, Crescendo

Artistry of the highest order

Paul Conway, Musical Opinion

Splendid interpretations from a great pianist

Carsten Dürer, Piano News Germany

Jaw-dropping dexterity

Textura Canada

Astonishing technical refinement

Rémy Franck, Pizzicato

Myslivecek

BIS Records, March 2019

Sprightliness abounds in the concertos and short pieces gathered here, delivered with deliciously unfussy poise and elegance on a modern Steinway, crisply supported by the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the conductor Nicholas McGegan

Geoff Brown, The Times

Perfectly judged tone

Erica Jeal, The Guardian

A more than impeccable performance

Sophie Bourdais, Télérama

Very sincere and tastefully eloquent

Rémy Franck, Pizzicato

Sie geht mit Feuer, Esprit eine Verkündigungseifer zu Werke

Rainer W. Janke, Klassik Heute

Kenneth Hesketh: Horae (pro clara)

BIS Records, April 2016

A star interpreter of contemporary music

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer

A winning combination of technical subtlety and expressive spontaneity

Arnold Whittall, Gramophone

Flawless transparency and technique

Dr Hartmut Lück, Klassik Heute

Magnificently interpreted by Clare Hammond

Le Disquaire

When she gets her claws out, Clare Hammond is impressive

Pierre Rigaudière, Diapason

Selected reviews

The young British rising star Clare Hammond was a dazzling athlete

Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian

Appealing delicacy

Brian Barford, Classical Source

Clare Hammond was the nimble soloist

Andrew Clements, The Guardian

I sniff the air to see if I can small smoke coming from the ivories

Thomas Hannah, Line of Best Fit

Exceptional musicianship

Paul Conway, Musical Opinion

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