MAKING her first visit to Kendal Midday Concert Club was the young pianist, Clare Hammond, writes CLIVE WALKLEY. Clare is a seasoned recitalist; she is an advocate of contemporary music and has a strong interest in Polish music. Perhaps her strongest claim to fame to date is the fact that she starred as the young Miss Shepherd in the film adaptation of Alan Bennett’s The Lady in the Van.

For her Kendal programme she chose to play works by Haydn, Mendelssohn, Debussy, Rimsky-Korsakov and Rachmaninov. It soon became obvious that she has a dazzling technique: rapid finger work, delicate scale passages, frequent hand crossing, all seemed effortless. She appeared equally at home in the classical repertoire, and in the sound world of Debussy and works from the Romantic era. She had complete control of the piano, coaxing the instrument to produce tremendous power when it was demanded and, at the other end of the dynamic spectrum, magical pianissimos.

Haydn’s two-movement Sonata in C opened the programme. The slow first movement, in effect a series of elaborations on the opening two-bar phrase, was beautifully paced with immaculate phrasing and delicate passage work; the Rondo which followed was tossed off cheekily as so many of Haydn’s rondo movements need to be.

Next came Mendelssohn’s Song without Words, commonly know as The Bee’s Wedding or Spinning Song. This was taken at a rapid pace and again revealed Clare’s finger dexterity and the delicate side to her playing.

Five of Debussy’s Préludes followed, each demanding a particular technical skill and musical approach. The longest of the five, the famous atmospheric and programmatic La Cathedral engloutie, covers a wide dynamic range, ranging from the subtlest pianissimo to a colossal double forte at its climax. Clare knew just how much sound she could get from the piano without forcing the tone and the effect was spellbinding. In contrast, Voiles (veils or sails) was beautifully delicate while Feux d’artifice had all the brilliance necessary to conjure up in the imagination a firework display.

In Rachmaninov’s arrangement off Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous Flight of the Bumblebee, Clare’s secure right hand technique allowed her to negotiate the fast moving passage work at a breathtaking speed.

Finally came Rachmaninov’s Sonata in B minor which calls on every aspect of a pianist technique. What we heard was again an amazing display of virtuosity but a performance full of musicality. On a miserable winter’s day, this was a recital to lift the spirits and a reminder of how lucky we are to have recitals of this quality in Kendal.