"the displays of invention can be dazzling, especially in the way Hammond programmes them" — Fiona Maddocks
Pianist Clare Hammond has a knack of mixing repertoire to revealing effect. Her latest album, Variations (BIS), is a sequence of seven sets of 20th- and 21st-century variations. The description of the form – a theme repeated many times with modifications – may seem unpromising, but the displays of invention can be dazzling, especially in the way Hammond programmes them.
Harrison Birtwistle’s From the Golden Mountain (a reference to Bach’s Goldberg Variations), stark, explosive, on a tight rein, is followed by John Adams’s I Still Play, allusive, fluent and also inspired by the Goldbergs. In addition to Szymanowski’s monumental Variations on a Polish Theme, Helmut Lachenmann’s 5 Variations on a Theme of Franz Schubert, and works by Copland and Hindemith, the high point is the grand finale: Sofia Gubaidulina’s ambitious Chaconne (1963). Hammond has given us an ear-bending and virtuosic recital.