Clare Hammond, pianist

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and make it your career?

That visceral excitement that you get listening to a live performance. I felt transported to another realm and was determined that when I grew up I would be able to inspire this in an audience.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My teachers, without a doubt, not only for their musical guidance but also for the ways they showed me what it means to be a human being and to relate to people.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Balancing the need to be utterly demanding in practice, where nothing is ever good enough, and to project complete conviction on stage. It is so difficult to develop that mental discipline and detachment.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

The performances I have given to people who have not really engaged with classical music before, whether that is in a primary school or a prison. I love seeing their enthusiasm when they realise that this wonderful music, its emotional power and capacity to inspire, is theirs for the taking.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

This changes gradually as I get older and branch into new areas. I have done a great deal of twentieth-century and contemporary music, which is still incredibly important to me, but am really enjoying exploring early classical repertoire at the moment.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I have a wish-list of pieces I would love to perform and feed these in gradually, alongside specific requests from promoters and new commissions.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

No – they are so different, it would be impossible to compare. I do, however, have favourite transport hubs and a distressingly detailed knowledge of the peculiarities of the British rail network…

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Varies entirely depending on my mood.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Can’t possibly say – it feels like asking who my favourite human is!

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Memorable concert experiences fall into two clearly defined camps – those where I felt utterly carried away by the music, and those where my blood sugar was low, there was a bitterly cold draught and someone coughed all through the rests. As both are so dependent on chance, I’m not sure it helps to dwell on either!

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Patience, conviction and faith. It takes time to develop as a musician and there are many difficult decisions to make along the way. You have to believe in what you represent as an artist and have faith that, whether your career flourishes or takes a nosedive, that it will be fulfilling.

As a musician, what is your definition of “success”?
Not caring about it. I’ve yet to manage this…
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

I would like to have acquired some wisdom. Any suggestions?

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Walking through woodland in early spring, in dappled light, over rustling leaves. 

What is your most treasured possession?

My husband. Not exactly a ‘possession’ but his support is crucial to everything that I do.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Playing ‘goblins’ with my daughters. I am an expert cackler!

Acclaimed as a pianist of “amazing power and panache” (The Telegraph), Clare Hammond is recognised for the virtuosity and authority of her performances and has developed a “reputation for brilliantly imaginative concert programmes” (BBC Music Magazine).

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