Clare Hammond’s Variations

RECORDING OF THE MONTH

Clare Hammond has a reputation for delivering imaginative, adventurous and engaging programmes of predominantly twentieth century and contemporary music.

Hammond’s latest release, just out on the BIS label, is no exception, offering an eclectic selection of Variations composed by Karol Szymanowski, Helmut Lachenmann, Harrison Birtwistle, John Adams, Aaron Copland, Paul Hindemith and Sofia Gubaidulina.


Here is a fascinating programme that shines a light on concert music that is too rarely heard, while also providing a vehicle for Hammond’s astonishing pianism and musicianship. It’s one of the most compelling recordings I’ve heard in a while, and an easy choice for Pianodao Recording of the Month

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Myriam Barbaux-Cohen plays Granados

Recording of the Month

The music of Spanish composer Enrique Granados (1867-1916) is surely one of the great treasuries of the piano repertoire, with imaginatively engaging and brilliantly crafted pieces suitable for players at all levels of development.

And yet too many are unaware of the breadth of Granados’s output, despite instantly recognising his name; aside from a couple of the pieces from his monumental masterpiece Goyescas and one or two easy pieces which have been picked up by music examination boards, much of his music remains largely unexplored by today’s players.

The brilliant Alicia de Larrocha (1923-2009) did much to popularise the music of Granados alongside the other great composers of her country, but for me the discovery of his music was first made through the fabulous complete set recorded by Martin Jones for Nimbus back in 2001, which has proved an ongoing source of musical delight.

And yet still too-little cherished, much of this music remains rarely heard.

Appearing last year, but a fresh discovery to me, French pianist Myriam Barbaux-Cohen’s disc of Granados’s music offers another noteworthy opportunity to discover some of the hidden music that you may have missed!

With Spring in the air, the sunny disposition of this disc definitely belongs to this moment, so let’s take it for a spin. It’s my February 2021 Recording of the Month…

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Vanessa Benelli Mosell: Casta Diva

Recording of the Month

I first heard the 33-year-old Italian pianist Vanessa Benelli Mosell a few years back when she released an impressive disc of Debussy on the Decca label. Exploring her catalogue I soon found myself considering her one of the most artistically adventurous and astute artists of her generation.

Her latest disc, Casta Diva, more than confirms that view, and is quite simply one of the most dazzling piano recordings I’ve heard in a while.

So it’s a very easy choice for the first Recording of the Month in 2021…

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Herbert Howells: Piano Music

Recording of the Month

The last months of any year always include several notable CD releases, and 2020 has been no exception. But for this month’s choice recording I am again eschewing the mainstream for something a little different, but truly exceptional and revelatory…

Herbert Howells  (1892-1983) was an English composer, organist and teacher who is chiefly remembered for his wondrous contribution to the Anglican choral tradition. Alongside these activities, he wrote a significant body of solo piano music, much of it unpublished, undiscovered and unloved until now.

Matthew Schellhorn is a leading performer who regularly appears at major venues and festivals throughout the UK, has recorded numerous critically acclaimed albums and given over a hundred premieres of new works, including several solo and chamber pieces he has himself commissioned.

Having previously performed music from Howells’ modest published output for the piano, Schellhorn was fascinated when presented with manuscripts of the composer’s unpublished music, and so began a journey of discovery that has led to the release of the first of two albums of this hitherto unknown music, brought to us on the Naxos label.


The alchemy between composer and pianist is tangible in these astonishing recordings, every work seemingly a masterpiece.

Here then is the Pianodao review…

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Eleonor Bindman: Bach Transcriptions

Recording of the Month

So here’s something very different, and yet which seems so very comfortingly familiar…

The question of whether or not J.S. Bach’s harpsichord works translate well to the modern piano has led to recurring discussion and debate throughout my lifetime in piano education, so I was intrigued to hear about New York-based pianist Eleonor Bindman’s latest project: the transcription, performance and recording of Bach’s Six Cello Suites for solo piano.

Bindman’s recordings have recently become available as a 2CD set from the Grand Piano label:


As Bindman points out in her fascinating CD booklet essay, Bach himself regularly transcribed his works originally intended for one instrument so that they could be performed on another, as well as making arrangements of the music of other composers.

And indeed, this was a standard practice in the Baroque era. And not only then: Bach’s music in particular has of course been the subject of many excellent transcriptions over the last three centuries.

Listening to Bindman’s recording, I was immediately struck by the mellifluous beauty and sensitivity of her renditions of these iconic cello works; that she has transcribed them so well and plays them with such assurance, grace and finesse makes this 2CD set an easy choice for my Recording of the Month

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Brad Mehldau: Suite, April 2020

Recording of the Month

Brad Mehldau is not simply one of the true greats of jazz piano, but one of the most interesting composers, collaborators and creators in the contemporary music scene.

Every release of his is special, and this year we are fortunate to have two in close succession, the brilliant quartet album RoundAgain with Joshua Redman, Christian McBride and Brian Blade and, the subject of this review, Suite: April 2020, an intimate solo set comprising twelve pieces improvised in response to the lockdown of March/April 2020, plus three concluding bonus cover versions.

Suite: April 2020 appeared digitally almost immediately back in the late spring, and the physical CD album arrived this Autumn:


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Murray McLachlan: Complete Piano Music of Edward Gregson

Recording of the Month

There have been several remarkable piano recordings in the last month, but as regular readers will know I always particularly enjoy releases which expand our knowledge of the repertoire and take us on a journey of musical discovery.

Murray McLachlan’s latest release (and his first for Naxos) is a notable example, delivering a complete overview of the solo piano music of contemporary composer Edward Gregson.

Gregson (b. 1945) was a student of Alan Bush (who, incidentally, I met and played for as a teenager); like his teacher, Gregson combines modernity with irrepressible harmonic logic in his music, and it has a uniformly accessible appeal.

Though perhaps chiefly known for his music for brass and wind, this new recording reveals that Gregson’s piano compositions very much come from his “top drawer”, and deserve a far wider uptake.

For his part, McLachlan has added to an already raucously adventurous discography a recording which reaffirms, should we need reminding, that his name belongs in the first division of British artists.

So let’s explore this intriguing and fabulously enjoyable album…

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Catherine Gordeladze: Caprice Brillant

Recording of the Month

In my review of Catherine Gordeladze’s Dance Fantasies CD back in 2017, I concluded,

Dance Fantasies is a brilliant success, offering a fabulous selection of familiar and semi-familiar music in a fresh and inspired piece of programming.”

Now Gordeladze is back with an equally clever and in my view even better executed recital album intriguingly titled Caprice Brillant. Featuring a 76-minute programme of music from Bach to Kapustin, from Mendelssohn to Moszkowski, Gordeladze once again assembles an imaginative and riveting programme of too-little performed piano gems.

Let’s take a closer look at this month’s Pianodao Choice recording…

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Louis Lortie: In paradisum

photo: Elias.photography

Recording of the Month

Of all the truly seminal composers in the evolution of the piano repertoire, Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) remains one of the less performed, his significance little understood, his extraordinary music too easily overlooked.

How welcome then In paradisum, the second instalment in French-Canadian pianist Louis Lortie’s Chandos series A Fauré Recital which began with the excellent Après un rêve (available here) back in 2016, and which we must hope will develop into a complete cycle of this, arguably Fauré’s most important body of music.


Whether you are already an enthusiast for this music or a newcomer to it, Lortie’s winning way with Fauré’s idiom will enchant and enliven your appreciation of this wonderful repertoire, so let’s take the disc for a spin…

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Denis Matsuev: Three 20th Century Concerti

Recording of the Month

This month it’s a pleasure to be shining the spotlight on a concerto recording for the first time on Pianodao: to be precise, DG’s new disc of concertante works by Shostakovich, Schnittke and Lutosławski, brought to us by Deutsche Grammophon and performed stunningly by Denis Matsuev (piano) and the Kammerorchester Wein-Berlin.


The three works included in this outstanding recording are all very much of their epoch, but rooted firmly in musical language and conventions that make them accessible to any classical music lover.

They are:

  1. Dmitri Shostakovich: Concerto No.1 for Piano, Trumpet and String Orchestra Op.35 (1933)
  2. Alfred Schnittke: Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra (1979)
  3. Witold Lutosławski: Variations on a Theme of Paganini (1941)

Let’s take it for a spin…

Continue reading Denis Matsuev: Three 20th Century Concerti