"After a disc dedicated to the works of Panufnik, father and daughter ('Reflections' catalogue No. 626), Clare Hammond presents an anthology of études with the hundred-year old scores of Liapounov and Szymanowski alongside works written between 1992 and 2003.
As their title indicates, the Transcendental Etudes by Liapounov follow the path outlined by Liszt. Moreover, 'Summer Night' - which the pianist endows with a beautiful finesse - is reminiscent of Liszt's 'Harmonies du soir'. The pianist copes well with the high level of virtuosity required. Yet one could find the strepitosos of Terek a little timid, and Tempête, this monstrous child of Chopin and Balakirev, less tumultuous than under the fingers of Scherbakov (Marco Polo). Well tailored, at times sharp or diaphanous, the Twelve Etudes op. 33 of Szymanowski often evoke late Scriabin, such as the Etude Op. 65 No. 1, a second echo of the Russian composer. If Clare Hammond sometimes lacks ease (Opus 33 No. 6) and must defer to the clarity and the resolve of Martin Roscoe (Naxos), one must acknowledge her subtlety and magnificent sonority.
We then change gear with works by living composers, where the British pianist seems this time perfectly at ease. The remarkable études of Unsuk Chin (born in 1961), akin to traversing a frozen mirror (1) or assuming the costume of a diabolic toccata (5), remind one of Ligeti - of whom Chin was a pupil - in their asymmetrical rhythms. The exceptional finesse of articulation, eloquent vitality and the force of Clare Hammond's conviction - which outclasses the version by Yejin Gil (Solstice) - do justice to the intricacy of the South-Korean musician's work.
Sparkling and playful, jazzy or evoking an accelerated silent film, the works of Nikolaï Kapustin (born in 1937), are always worthwhile for an instrumentalist who knows how to master its pitfalls. This pianist scrutinises the text and brings a warmth which is absent from the rapid and virtuosic recording by Marc-André Hamelin (Hyperion). Despite slight reservations, this is a reinvigorating disc."