Hélène de Montgeroult - Etudes in BBC Music Magazine

"draws you in and exerts a fascinating magnetism." — Jessica Duchen

Born in 1864 (younger than Mozart, older than Beethoven), Hélène de Montgeroult, celebrated for her superlative playing in private salons, was a French aristocrat and so not permitted a performing career. After she married a Marquis and had undergone secret missions, kidnapping, escape and widowhood, there came the Revolution: she was imprisoned during the Reign of Terror, but after improvising variations on the Marseillaise before the Committee of Public Safety she was released. She then became the first woman to be professor of piano at Paris's Conservatoire de Musique and left a substantial catalogue of piano music on her death in 1836, including the gigantic piano method from which there 29 etudes are taken.

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. While the music does not have quite the glitter, extreme contrasts or wild imagination of Chopin's etudes, it draws you in and exerts a fascinating magnetism. Hopefully this valuable project should lead to further exploration of her works.