Kenneth Hamilton

"Pianist, author, lecturer and all-round virtuoso" (Tom Service, The Guardian)

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 'Romantic Piano Encores' (Grainger, Godowsky, Mendelssohn and more). 

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:

Prima Facie logo
Kenneth Hamilton on Prima Facie Records

Kenneth Hamilton plays Liszt – Volume 1: Death and Transfiguration (PFCD167/168) £15.00

Kenneth Hamilton – piano

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.

Romantic Piano Encores (PFCD160) £12.50

Kenneth Hamilton – piano

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

"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… 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

More Preludes to Chopin (PFCD134) £12.50

Kenneth Hamilton - piano
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

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

Kenneth Hamilton: piano
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

Preludes to Chopin (PFCD084) £12.50

Kenneth Hamilton - piano
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.

Back to Bach (PFCD061) £12.50

Tributes and Transcriptions performed by Kenneth Hamilton, piano

"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

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

Kenneth Hamilton - piano
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

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