"A pianist in a thousand": High praise for Clare Hammond and her new disc of Etudes by Hélène de Montgeroult

7 October 2022

Pianist Clare Hammond has released her newest album for BIS Records, of Etudes by fascinating French composer Hélène de Montgeroult. The disc was released on the 7th October 2022 internationally, and on the 4th November 2022 in the UK, in a special launch concert at London's iconic National Gallery.

A contemporary of Mozart and pioneer of the Romantic style that foreshadowed that of Chopin, Montgeroult wrote 114 études for her student, Johann Baptist Cramer, between 1788 and 1812, 29 of which have been carefully selected by Clare for this latest album which includes 12 world premiere recordings. A trailer for the disc can be found here.

On release the disc charted in the Top 30 Specialist Classical Music Chart, and was chosen as Classic FM's Drivetime Discovery. Tracks were included in Apple Music's 'Classical Music You Must Hear This Month' The disc has received high praise from the press, receiving the coveted title of Editors Choice for Gramophone Magazine's December 2022 issue, with reviewers noting the revelatory insight into the history and evolution of piano works, and the ideal stylistic match for Hammond's virtuosic and lyrical abilities - full reviews here and selected reviews below:

"Pianist Clare Hammond, noted for her muscular power, can also touch the keys as if stroking a Siamese cat...this music is 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" The Times

"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" Gramophone Magazine *Editors Choice*

"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 ****

"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... 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

"British pianist Clare Hammond shows that this miniature form has artistic worth" The Guardian
"Hammond plays with great sensitivity and just the right amount of expressive freedom as well as the requisite technical sophistication...a compulsory purchase for anyone interested in the evolution of piano music in the early 19th century" MusicWeb International
"I was completely taken by the case Hammond makes...a wonderful collection of unfamiliar music, full of agreeable surprises, and with some true gems to uncover" The Arts Desk
"As for the musical finesse, commitment and technical command of Hammond's marvellous performances, Montgeroult could surely not hope for a more brilliant exponent" Piano Dao - Recording of the Month
"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 etudes to record...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 was a guest of Donald Macleod on BBC Radio 3's Composer of the Week earlier in the year, where she discussed the life and works of Montgeroult (podcast here), and she caught up with Martin Cullingford on the Gramophone Magazine podcast to talk about what drew her to Montgeroult's music. An interview with Rebecca Franks appeared in BBC Music Magazine for the December 2022 issue (here), and she wrote a feature for Classical Music on performing historic works (here). A further interview with Presto Classical can be found here.

This disc is Clare's sixth for BIS Records, following a highly acclaimed disc of 20th- and 21st-century variations that was reviewed as "dazzling, especially in the way Hammond programmes them" (The Observer), "a questing, highly intelligent pianist stunningly recorded at the height of her powers" (International Piano) and "Hammond keeps us enthralled to the last bar" (The Telegraph). She previously recorded a disc of Etudes by Unsuk Chin, Nicolai Kapustin, Sergei Lyapunov and Karol Szymanowski, described as "a terrific achievement" (BBC Music Magazine) and which won her an Opus d'Or from Opus HD Magazine and 5 diapasons from Diapason.

Described as 'a pianist of extraordinary gifts' (Gramophone), Clare 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. For more information and ways to listen to Clare's new Montgeroult disc, visit the BIS Records website here.

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