Last night I attended the Hamelin concert. And Mark (Hensley, not Hamelin - haha) if you’re reading this – he played all different pieces than what you heard at the concert you recently attended. Here is what he played:
1. Haydn Sonata
2. Haydn Sonata
3. Weissenberg’s Sonata in a State of Jazz
4. Chopin Barcarolle
5. Chopin – 3rd Ballade
6. Two etudes composed by Hamelin
7. Godowsky – Strauss – Symphonic Metamorposis on Wein, Weib und Gesang
I met up with Piano Society member, Brian (bclever), who will hopefully add more information to this because I have a terrible memory and I also lost my program, so I don’t know which Haydn Sonatas Hamelin played. As far as I could tell, he played them flawlessly.
You can’t get to a more extreme opposite piece than the Weissenberg Jazz Sonata, which came next. Brian and I attended a pre-concert lecture where we were introduced to this piece and viewed some of the score. It looked impossibly difficult. There are four parts to the sonata, I think the first one was a tango, followed by something attributed to the Charleston, then a bluesy piece and ending on a samba. After watching and hearing Hamelin play the whole thing, I know it to be impossible for me to play. But what an incredible piece - I was stunned after hearing it. You wouldn’t believe the rhythm. I’m pretty sure Hamelin has more than ten fingers. And how anyone could manage to memorize it is beyond me. It was just amazing!
After the intermission came the Barcarolle. I did not know the program before the concert and when I learned that Hamelin was performing the piece, I nearly fell off my chair. Brian too – neither of us knew he was going to perform it. I’ve been working on the Barcarolle myself and have been listening to a lot of performers play it. So I know every single note! Hamelin played it very nicely, much better than I, of course. And although his tempo was a little faster in the beginning section, the other sections were close to how I play it, so that made me happy. But yes, his fingers just glide over the keys so delicately, and the pianissimo parts were so sublime that I felt my heart constricting inside my chest. I did hear quite a few slips, which made me feel a little better about my own playing, except Hamelin’s slips go by much faster than mine, so probably not everybody in the audience caught them.
Next, was the 3rd Ballade – another piece I’ve worked on so I know it very well. Again, I heard a couple slips, but nothing terrible and Hamelin’s interpretation was exactly right.
After the Ballade, Hamelin played two etudes that he composed himself. Nice pieces, the first one sounded jazzy and the second one was for the left hand only. And after that came the Godowsky-Strauss piece. Again, Brian and I were stunned afterward. Not only does Hamelin have more than ten fingers, he must also have a couple more hands too! You should see how he has to jump all over the keyboard with these pieces. Unbelievable. Great music too.
He played one encore – his own nocturne, a pretty piece that didn’t sound too hard. After that, Brian and I bought a couple of his CD’s and had him sign them. Except I broke my CD cover about 5 seconds after I opened it, so my CD is in pieces now, but I still got his signature on the inside jacket.
I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and am still kind of stunned by the virtuosity of Hamelin’s playing. I definitely got my money’s worth! Here are a couple pics of Brian and me – the first one is at the concert, the second one is at a bar we went to after the concert.
Ok, Brian - did I leave anything out?
Edit - I accidentally deleted the photos.
but I forgot to mention that Hamelin's foot was on the soft pedal the entire time he played. He constantly used it. Also, he wore a plain black suit, white dress shirt opened at the collar with a black t-shirt showing underneath.