Kenneth Hamilton

"Pianist, author, lecturer and all-round virtuoso" (Tom Service, The Guardian)
Kenneth@ScottishPianist.com

Kenneth Hamilton pianist

Described by the Moscow Kommersant as “an outstanding virtuoso−one of the finest players of his generation”, by the Singapore Straits Times as “a formidable virtuoso,” by Tom Service in the Guardian as "pianist, author, lecturer and all-round virtuoso", and by Stefan Pieper in Klassik Heute as a “pianist, scholar, maverick thinker and philosopher”, Kenneth Hamilton is well-known internationally as a recitalist and recording artist of emotional depth and striking originality. His CDs have attracted both critical acclaim and a large number of listeners worldwide. His best-selling 'After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance' (Oxford University Press) is one of the most influential books on piano performance in recent decades. 

Hamilton is deeply grateful for his pianistic training in Scotland with Lawrence Glover and Ronald Stevenson, experience that later informed his recordings of Stevenson’s music. He has appeared frequently on radio and television in Britain, the US, Germany, France, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Singapore, Thailand, China and Russia, including a performance of Chopin’s first piano concerto with the Istanbul Chamber Orchestra on Turkish Television, and a dual role as pianist and presenter for the television programme Mendelssohn in Scotland, broadcast by Deutsche Welle Channel. He is a familiar artist on BBC Radio 3, Radio 4 and the World Service, and a keen communicator, enthusiastically promoting the understanding and appreciation of music. One of his most recent BBC broadcasts, in the series 'The Essay: My Life in Music', was described by Sir Nicholas Kenyon in The Observer as “Revelatory…touching...a personal story of loss and death that reaches out from the radio. That is what broadcasting is all about”. 

Hamilton’s recordings for the Prima Facie label: Volumes 1 and 2 of 'Kenneth Hamilton Plays Ronald Stevenson', 'Back to Bach: Tributes and Transcriptions by Liszt, Rachmaninov and Busoni', 'Preludes to Chopin' and 'More Preludes to Chopin' have enjoyed outstanding reviews: “played with understanding and brilliance” (Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3 Record Review); “an unmissable disk… fascinating music presented with power, passion and precision” (Colin Clarke, Fanfare);“precise control and brilliance” (Andrew Clements, The Guardian); “thrilling” (Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone); “a gorgeous recording and excellent performance” (Jack Sullivan, American Record Guide). He has also made the first recording of John Casken’s 'Six Wooded Pieces' (premiered by him at the Esplanade, Singapore, in 2019) on the CD Stolen Airs (“a terrific disc”, Fanfare). His latest CD release is 'Kenneth Hamilton plays Liszt – Volume 2: Salon and Stage'.

Hamilton’s Chopin and Stevenson recordings entered UK Classical Charts immediately on their release. 'Preludes to Chopin' has now been streamed online nearly a million times, while 'More Preludes to Chopin' was chosen as one of Spotify’s “Best Classical New Releases”. Both have attracted widespread attention for the originality of their performance style. For Dr Chang Tou Liang of the Singapore Straits Times they offer “a new way of listening to Chopin”. Stefan Pieper (Klassik Heute) commented: “Hamilton’s approach to Chopin ignores the pianistic fashions of today’s music market, challenges the dogmas of historical performance practice, and offers an entire palette of new and intriguing experiences”, James Manheim (AllMusic) wrote: “The commercial success of this release shows how strongly audiences hunger for fresh interpretations of mainstream repertory, and a fresh interpretation is exactly what you get“, while Ralph Locke (ArtsFuse) remarked: “This is real music-making, not subservient reciting from a sacred text. Hamilton’s Chopin could change your whole attitude toward the role of the performer in classical music.” 

Hamilton is Head of the School of Music at Cardiff University in Wales, UK. He is recognised as one of the world’s leading experts on the history of piano performance in general, and on the music of Chopin and Liszt in particular. He completed a doctorate on Liszt at Balliol College, Oxford (he is indebted to his tutors, Hugh Macdonald and John Warrack, for any scholarly skills he might have), and was commissioned to write the 2011 bicentenary article on the composer for the New York Times (a “fine, unsentimental appreciation” according to Alex Ross). His ground-breaking work, 'After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance' was a Daily Telegraph Book of the Year in the UK, a recipient of an ARSC award, and a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title in the US. It was welcomed as “full of wit and interest, and written with passion” by Charles Rosen (Times Literary Supplement), as "brilliantly researched and beautifully written” by Stuart Isacoff (Symphony Magazine) and as “a delightful book” by Bernard Holland (New York Times). It has been translated into Italian, Hungarian and Mandarin. 

As a teacher and mentor himself, Hamilton much enjoys passing on the flame to aspiring professional pianists. He has been a visiting artist and guest professor at many institutions worldwide, including the Franz Liszt Academy in Hungary and the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia, and gives regular masterclasses in China and the Far East.


Kenneth Hamilton Talks on Music and Musicians


Kenneth Hamilton on BBC Radio 3 The Essay: „Now, O now, I needs must part“


Kenneth Hamilton discusses Liszt's Legacy to his Students:

Kenneth Hamilton on Ronald Stevenson:


Kenneth Hamilton in Performance


Kenneth Hamilton Performs at the University of Waikato, June 2023

Stevenson : Chopin : Liszt



Kenneth Hamilton on Prima Facie Records

Handel Remembered: Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and more... (PFCD235) £12.50/£17.50

Kenneth Hamilton – piano
An Official Specialist Classical Chart Top 3 Recording

Antique view of London with Thames and St Paul's

Handel Remembered is a rare recording of piano pieces inspired not by JS Bach, but by his great contemporary George Frideric Handel, and played by Kenneth Hamilton, whose remarkable series of Liszt CDs have garnered such exceptional critical acclaim. Though the album features a little Liszt (the Sarabande and Chaconne from Handel’s Almira), its climax is a commanding performance of Brahms’ magisterial Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel. Baroque tribute pieces by Mozart and Beethoven precede the Brahms, as do Handel transcriptions by Charles Valentin Alkan, Wilhelm Kempff and Percy Grainger. The album ends with two “encores”: Brahms’ elegant arrangement of a Gavotte by Gluck, and Grainger’s uproarious Handel in the Strand. This delightfully life-enhancing disc is, as ever, supplemented by Hamilton’s unfailingly entertaining and informative programme notes.

"Hamilton brings his full pianistic firepower to composers and pianists inspired by Handel. A lovely idea, well realised, and a potent reminder of the respect with which Handel was held by future generations." Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3 Record Review

Region


Prima Facie logo

Scenes from Childhood (PFCD224) CD £12.50/£17.50

Piano Works by Pedro Faria Gomes – Kenneth Hamilton, piano
A top 20 UK Specialist Classical Charts recording

CD cover painting of two children on trail through mountains

"Two of the most remarkable compositions to come out of the pandemic. Hamilton is a major contributor to the album’s success…[he] offers restrained yet sensitive readings that let the details in Gomes’ music emerge naturally. A wonderful offbeat find from the small Prima Facie label that made classical best-seller charts in early 2024." James Manheim, All Music

Few things could have prepared society for the global pandemic that gripped the world from 2020–21. From that darkness, however, there emerged numerous avenues for creative reflection. Musicians suddenly had a lot of time on their hands, and an opportunity to develop their art in new and ambitious directions. During this period, Portuguese composer Pedro Faria Gomes, whose imaginative and communicative music combines clear originality with a confident respect for tradition, turned to the piano. His initial idea was to write a variation on two sets of four notes. Faria shared the resulting movement with pianist Kenneth Hamilton, his colleague at Cardiff University School of Music. Hamilton was impressed with the piece, and a plan evolved to compose a more elaborate work. This developed into the ten movement, strikingly thought-provoking Suite J—the ‘J’ refers to Faria’s daughter Joana—recorded for the first time on this disc.

A little while later, Faria’s second child, Daniel, was born. This in turn was the inspiration for the charmingly witty Sonatina, a gracefully concise companion piece to the Suite, also conceived to be premiered and recorded by Kenneth Hamilton. Both works pay heartfelt homage to historical genres—the Baroque Suite, the Classical Sonatina—while drawing inspiration from a web of allusion and quotation more redolent of the Romantic piano music of Robert Schumann. Accordingly, the title of the album—Scenes from Childhood—is gratefully borrowed from Schumann’s collection of the same name. This is nevertheless no Album for the Young, rather a nostalgically adult reflection on early childhood, and a moving, modern meditation on the music of earlier eras.

Region


Kenneth Hamilton plays Liszt – Volume 2: Salon and Stage (PFCD210/211) £15/£20

Kenneth Hamilton – piano

Salon and Stage CD

An Official Specialist Classical Chart Top 3 Recording
An Official Classical Artists Album Chart Top 20 Recording
A Guardian Classical CD Pick of the Week
An AllMusic "Classical Highlight"
A Music Web International Recommended Recording
A Klassik Heute Recommended Recording
An Arts Fuse "Best Album of 2023"
No. 1 of the Guardian Top 10 Classical Recordings of 2023

"I have not heard such an outstanding Liszt recital for a very long time. Kenneth Hamilton unquestionably plays on the level of the greatest virtuosos…This recording is not just unreservedly recommended to all friends of the piano and of Romanticism, but is an absolute must-have." Thomas Baack, Klassik Heute Artistic Quality 10/10; Sound Quality 10/10; Overall Impression 10/10 A Klassik Heute Recommended Recording

“Hamilton is an unusual virtuoso, offering penetrating insights into Liszt’s music not just with his playing but also with his scholarship. You emerge from the notes as well as the music with your appreciation of Liszt’s extraordinary musicianship significantly enhanced.” Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3 Record Review, 15.07.23

"Pianistic flair and technical brilliance are the hallmarks of this winning record… Hamilton’s ability to combine pianistic flair and technical brilliance with an acute understanding of how this music came into existence makes these performances very special indeed. 5 Stars" Andrew Clements, The Guardian No. 1 of the Guardian Top Ten Classical Recordings of 2023

“My reaction to Hamilton’s superb playing is an appreciation of the hugely diverse emotional effect of these pieces, and a sense of the numinous which should always be present in Liszt’s music. One must not overlook the sheer technical wizardry: Kenneth Hamilton fully satisfies my expectations.” John France, Music Web International

“Kenneth Hamilton is a specialist in Liszt’s music, and it is good to see not only that he has embarked on a major series of Liszt recordings, but that this one, the second in the series, landed on Classical best seller lists…Liszt lovers will have a feast here.” James Manheim, AllMusic

“A glorious triumph… a wonderful voyage of discovery, with a splendid tour guide.” Ralph P. Locke, Arts Fuse

“an engrossing listen… Hamilton once more emerges as a born Lisztian in his unforced virtuosity… This is as well conceived and ear-opening a collection as its predecessor, and is as warmly recommended. Vol 3 is keenly awaited.” Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone

“The first volume of Kenneth Hamilton’s Liszt was very well received, and on the strength of this second double CD one can hear why. He knows when to storm and when to reflect, and there is impressive playing of the utmost delicacy…This is a cracking disc in great sound, a marvellous blend of the familiar and unfamiliar.” Rob Challinor, Music Web International

"For anyone who has encountered the first volume in what I hope is a long, long series of recordings, the words “Kenneth Hamilton plays Liszt Volume 2” will be sufficient to have them reaching for their wallet… Hamilton has pulled off a considerable coup in finding a new and invigorating way to present this trickiest of corners of Liszt’s output in a way that can help the modern listener to grasp why this music was such a big deal at the time. But more than that, this is a set that allows Liszt to woo, wow and seduce us all over again." David McDade, Music Web International

'Salon and Stage' is the second volume of Kenneth Hamilton’s internationally acclaimed Liszt series. In contrast to the first album, 'Death and Transfiguration', this recording offers a life-enhancing selection of virtuoso transcriptions from song and opera. But it happily shares with its predecessor Hamilton’s passion for these pieces. He has sought out Liszt’s oft-ignored recommendations on their interpretation and studied the reminiscences and recordings of his students. He has, in effect, tried to think like a Liszt pupil, and to immerse himself in a performance tradition that goes well beyond the printed text.

His rendition of Schubert’s haunting “Leise flehen meine Lieder”, for example, includes a captivating cadenza composed by the elderly Liszt forty years after first arranging the song. His 'Soirée de Vienne no.6' features piquant revisions written for Sophie Menter, Liszt’s favourite female student; while his touchingly unsentimental performance of the famous third 'Liebestraum' adopts authentic variants passed down by Frederick Lamond, one of Liszt’s very last pupils, and is played with an attentive ear to the composer’s own advice on interpretation.

Country


Kenneth Hamilton plays Liszt – Volume 1: Death and Transfiguration (PFCD167/168) £15/£20

Kenneth Hamilton – piano

Death and Transfiguration CD

A UK Official Classical Chart Top 5 Recording
Featured in the Guardian Best Classical New Releases of 2021
Gramophone Editor’s Choice
BBC Radio 3 Record of the Week
MusicWeb International Recommended Recording
A Gramophone "Best Classical Album of 2022"

"This wide-ranging collection of Liszt’s piano music meets its technical challenges with rare directness and clarity... As in Hamilton’s earlier discs –his recordings of Ronald Stevenson’s piano works especially- there is always the feeling that the music comes first, that the performances are a means to an end rather than a self-regarding end in themselves, and that is both liberating and totally refreshing for the listener." Andrew Clements, The Guardian
"A magnificent release, its contents perfectly judged and delivered with a balanced mix of virtuosity and intellect.“ Colin Clarke, Classical Explorer
"Kenneth Hamilton knows how to turn a CD into a deeply engaging intellectual and musical experience. He is one of the great treasures of the classical-music world today." Ralph Locke, ArtsFuse
"A fresh look at the composer’s career… this is a recording that brings the listener closer to Liszt’s inner personality." James Manheim, AllMusic
"Magisterial... a close and personal look at Liszt’s own thirst for spiritual sustenance and regeneration, his response to bereavement and how he found his peace...There is not a single vulgar work or superfluous note in these 152 minutes of music." Dr Chang Tou Liang, Pianomania
"Masterly readings…the pianist is one of these rare mortals whose erudite, elegant prose is matched by his eloquence at the keyboard... I cannot recommend this release too highly" Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone
"richly rewarding and brilliantly played" Gramophone Editor's Choice
"The playing here is superb. Kenneth Hamilton brings a numinous quality to Liszt’s music that is often absent in other performances." John France, MusicWeb International
"throughout Hamilton’s Liszt recital, the control of colour, the delineation of the voices, the different instrumental qualities he brings to bear are strikingly effective…the Romantic warhorses the B minor Sonata and the Ballade emerge refreshed. The whole recital flows thoughtfully from beginning to end, and the notes are as illuminating as the playing." Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3 Record Review
"Just as I was beginning to despair of ever hearing Liszt that really set the heart racing along comes Kenneth Hamilton... I don’t think I have ever heard an account of [the Sonata] that brought out so richly the fecundity of Liszt’s inspiration. I was transported to an epic voyage through a Byronic landscape with heart stopping vistas at every turn... What Hamilton seems to get, and clearly revels in, is the role of imagination in this music, that in comparison to our prosaic age, Liszt’s was a poetic one. Hamilton possesses all the technical prowess one could wish for but, listening to him, it is, for once, audible that the virtuosity of Liszt’s music is needed to match the excessive nature of his inspiration... The word I keep coming back to with this new recording is richness and that applies equally well to the recorded sound. It made me realise how often Liszt is recorded in the equivalent of a garish spotlight. This is like hearing Liszt in a candlelit salon, full of shadows for demons, assignations and prayer vigils." David McDade, Music Web International
“Kenneth Hamilton plays these pieces as a pianist completely familiar with the music, both technically and artistically. He employs, in a fashion as masterful as it is virtuosic, the entire gamut of pianistic expressiveness, but never goes over the top…And that is exactly what makes “his” Liszt so worth hearing. Without too much overloaded ballast, the music, immaculately realized, takes centre stage.” Guido Krawinkel, Klassik Heute
"Hamilton is an excellent Lisztian…I am very hopeful that this is indeed the start of a new series by this magnificent pianist. I should also say that this was one of my favourite CDs of 2022." Jonathan Welsh, Music Web International

This is a Liszt recording with a difference: repertoire reflecting love, death and transfiguration, memory and nostalgia, performed by internationally renowned pianist and Liszt expert Kenneth Hamilton. It goes without saying that Hamilton has intensively studied the original scores of these pieces, but in addition he has sought out and taken seriously Liszt’s often ignored recommendations on their interpretation, passed down from the many reminiscences and recordings of students who worked closely with the composer. He has, in effect, tried to think like a Liszt pupil, to immerse himself in a performance tradition that goes beyond the printed text, and to respect Liszt’s long legacy of teaching his own music.

New insights abound, even in such popular pieces as the Sonata in b minor: Hamilton’s powerful recording reflects not only the interpretative nuances suggested by Liszt, but also adopts a strikingly moving revised reading of the Sonata’s final page. The luscious Lorelei likewise incorporates the composer’s later improvements, and the renditions of both Funérailles and Bénédiction de Dieu profit from Liszt’s detailed advice on tempo flexibility, arpeggiation and ornamentation. Insights extend to hidden meanings within the music, as outlined in Hamilton’s own notes to the recording. The wonderful second Ballade is revealed as a “love-death” anticipating by several years the Wagner/Liszt Liebestod that ends the album, while the fascinatingly intertwined relationships linking the other pieces are lucidly and elegantly explained. A truly remarkable recording.

Region


Romantic Piano Encores (PFCD160) £12.50/£17.50

Kenneth Hamilton – piano

Romantic Piano Encores CD

An Official Classical Chart Top10 Recording
An AllMusic Editor’s Choice Recording
A Music Web International Recording of the Month
A Klassik Heute Recommended Recording

"This is an album of pieces I’ve long loved to play. It’s also a paradox: encores without a preceding programme; musical icing without the cake. But the tracks here were at least recorded as “encores”—played in joyful relaxation and relief towards the end of sessions largely devoted to other albums. Some of the pieces are pretty short, including the premiere recording of the elegant arrangement of Saint-Saëns’ Swan by one of my teachers, the late Lawrence Glover. Three of them – Mendelssohn’s quirky “Last Rose of Summer”, Grainger’s luscious Rosenkavalier Ramble, and Ignaz Friedman’s fabulous version of Voices of Spring – are fairly substantial, and the anchors of the programme. The final track (Godowsky’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on the “Artist’s Life” Waltz) is even longer. It’s really too long, I admit, to be an encore in a public concert, but it’s undeniably a lot of fun, and makes a great close for a CD. Hopefully, listeners will be both shaken and stirred." Kenneth Hamilton

"Hamilton’s fondness for the extreme outer edges of the piano repertoire brings a sense of spice and adventure to this recital… you can feel his love for these often complex arrangements" Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3 Record Review.

"The playing is stunning, from first note to the last. Every track here is a winner…a splendidly imaginative programme that interests, inspires and amazes." John France, Musicweb International

"a treasure trove of sound - beautifully shaped performances of music both well-known and awaiting discovery, each performance shaped like an individual jewel.“ Colin Clarke, Classical Explorer

"brilliant…delightful...an entirely satisfying programme" James Manheim, AllMusic

"An immensely appealing collection…Oh, if all piano CDs were put together with such imagination! And played with such spontaneity and grace–yet with total precision. How does he do it, exactly?" Ralph Locke, ArtsFuse

"played with eloquence and idiomatic flair…this encore album is totally enjoyable, with witty and insightful programme notes penned by Hamilton himself, which can only be added pleasure." Dr Chang Tou Liang, Pianomania, Singapore

"The album is a real balm for the soul… Hamilton shows himself to be an intelligent, original and sensitive interpreter. Technically, his playing is beyond criticism." Artistic Quality 10/10, Sound Quality 10/10, Overall Impression 10/10. Antje Rößler, Klassik Heute

Region


More Preludes to Chopin (PFCD134) £12.50/£17.50

Kenneth Hamilton - piano

More Preludes to Chopin CD

An Official Classical Chart top 10 recording
Selected by Spotify as a 'very best Classical new release'

"Here is a release that stands out from the crowds by a country mile. Well recorded, played with real mastery, and including fabulously but unsurprisingly eloquent notes from Hamilton himself, any lover of Chopin’s music - and indeed of piano playing - should acquire this urgently." Colin Clarke, Fanfare

"All these pieces are superbly played… It is to be hoped that Volume 3 of this project will soon be released. It will be interesting to see what ‘longer’ pieces are coupled with the remaining Preludes." John France, Music Web International

"Both of Hamilton’s Chopin albums have been commercially successful, a testimony to the strength of audience interest in fresh interpretations of core Romantic repertory…Hamilton is a successful new voice." James Manheim, AllMusic

"Imaginative and ingenious...Hamilton’s playing is up there with the best of Chopin interpreters, and it is his spirited advocacy of programme planning by preluding that makes this recital disc stand above the routine." Dr Chang Tou Liang, Pianomania, Singapore

"Explosively brilliant piano playing…Hamilton’s technical pianistic finesse is spectacular…this isn’t a Chopin "for beginners" — instead, one can’t help quickly succumbing to the intriguingly untamed nature of Hamilton’s playing." Stefan Pieper, Klassik Heute

"Magical… Hamilton’s playing here enchanted me and kept me listening for one pleasant surprise after another, each utterly convincing…This is real music-making, not subservient reciting from a sacred text. Hamilton’s Chopin could change your whole attitude toward the role of the performer in classical music." Ralph P. Locke, ArtsFuse


Region

Kenneth Hamilton plays Ronald Stevenson Vol 2 (PFCD107) £12.50/£17.50

Kenneth Hamilton: piano

Ronald Stevenson Vol 2

An Official Classical Chart Top 20 Recording

"[Hamilton’s] first release of Stevenson’s music gained widespread attention in Germany and North America as well as in Britain. Stevenson’s music uses stylistic elements from the past, and his music fell out of favour with the modernist claque. In Hamilton’s hands, however, it’s clear that there’s not a bit of nostalgia or neo-Romanticism in Stevenson’s music… Stevenson seems to open up a vast new range of possibilities. His student’s performances may be taken as definitive for now." James Manheim, Allmusic


Region

Preludes to Chopin (PFCD084) £12.50/£17.50

Kenneth Hamilton - piano

Preludes to Chopin

An Official Classical Chart Top 20 Recording

"Brilliantly captures both the musical and the technical content…well judged and beautifully played." John France, Music Web International
“This recording has a uniquely special sound, draping the music in a rich, round, dreamily Romantic tone-colour.” Radio 100.7 Luxembourg. New Classical CD Recommendations.

Region

Back to Bach (PFCD061) £12.50/£17.50

Tributes and Transcriptions performed by Kenneth Hamilton, piano

Back to Bach

"Excellent…a show of imperious pianism, authoritative but persuasive“ (5/5 Stars) Dr Chang Tou Liang, Singapore Straits Times
"Kenneth Hamilton has studied his sources in minute detail and brings new insights to Liszt’s Fantasia on Bach, his "Weinen, Klagen" Variations, and dispatches Busoni’s great arrangement of the violin Chaconne with magnificent aplomb" Nicholas Kenyon, The Observer

Region


Kenneth Hamilton plays Ronald Stevenson Vol. 1 (PFCD050) £12.50/£17.50

Kenneth Hamilton - piano

Ronald Stevenson Vol. 1

CD of the Week, Klassik Heute (Germany)

"This is a lovely recital... Kenneth Hamilton is completely in tune with Ronald Stevenson's style, and fully equal to the bravura demands of the music." Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill
"Splendid…the compositional and virtuoso aspects of the disk are frankly stunning." Geoffrey Atkinson, British Music Journal


Region

Kenneth Hamilton Gallery

Photos by Andrew Bi (Singapore) - click to enlarge


Kenneth Hamilton pianist Kenneth Hamilton pianist Kenneth Hamilton pianist Kenneth Hamilton pianist Kenneth Hamilton pianist