Etude in Gramophone

"unfaltering bravura and conviction" — Bryce Morrison

Simply entitled ‘Etude’, Clare Hammond’s recital is gloriously deceptive. For here is no familiar programme of Chopin and Liszt but an enterprising and enthralling challenge for both pianist and listener. Opening with Nos 4, 5 and 6 from Lyapunov’s 12 Transcendental Etudes - a very Russian tribute to Liszt, Hammond then abruptly changes course with Unsuk Chin’s six Piano Etudes (1995-2003) and a world that is ‘abstract and remote’ yet ‘addressing the emotions and communicating joy and warmth’. Then follow Szymanowski’s 12 Op 33 Etudes (already a far cry from the Chopin-inspired earlier set of Op 4) and, finally, Kapustin’s Five Etudes in Different Intervals.

All this could set even the most intrepid virtuoso explorer (Marc-André Hamelin?) by the ears, yet Hammond’s musical intention is always paramount. She storms Lyapunov’s ‘Térek’ and ‘Tempête’ with full-blooded romanticism and finds all the sultry and romantic atmosphere of ‘Nuit d’été’. If Chin’s Etudes betray the influence of her teacher Ligeti, they are also highly individual and distinguished, their often playful quality ironically surfacing through a formidable intricacy. Memories of earlier work (the monstrous Second Sonata) flicker through Szymanowski’s Etudes as well as other composers’ (Scriabin’s double-note Study, Op. 8 No 11), while Kapustin recalls Debussy (‘Pour les octaves’ and ‘Pour les notes répétées’). More to the point, Hammond plays with unfaltering bravura and conviction, and she has been superbly recorded.