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Marc-André Hamelin

Discussion in 'Pianists' started by jesus_loves_u, Jul 6, 2006.

  1. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    I have the great privilege of going to a school that Hamelin is fond of for some reason. I study at Brandon University in Brandon, Canada, and he has been at our school numerous times over the years, once in each the last couple years (although I've only been in university for two of those years and two of those three were with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra which travels to Brandon for five concerts a year). Anyways, in my first year, fall of 2004, he came to our school with his wife, the singer Jody Karen (or Karol?) Applebaum (sp?) for a week-long residency. It was an amazing week. Hamelin played the complete Albeniz' Iberia, the two of them did a Cabaret show as well they both collaborated with members of our faculty for a noon-hour show. Then she did masterclasses and lessons (one of which I accompanied) and he did a Q&A session because he doesn't do masterclasses or teach. He's quite famous for not teaching. But because he likes our school so much (I guess) he gave four one-hour lessons to four senior students. I was not able to get one since I was in first year, but he is apparently going to be coming back for a similar residency in my fourth year, so maybe then I'll be able to be one of hte few lucky ones in the world who can say they had a lesson with Marc-Andre Hamelin.

    As a musician I think he's absolutely amazing and brilliant. Obviously he can play anything, although he said in the Q&A session that he disagrees with people (like those in this forum) who say he has the world's greatest technique. Of course the repertoire he tackles is itself worthy of much respect but he is also annoyed by that, saying he is just as comfortable in the standard repertoire and includes it just as regularly in his performing schedule. I have listend to his first Schumann disc and I must agree, it is stunning and just as fine musicianship as any of the unheard of repertoire that he unearths

    This last March he came with the WSO to Brandon to play the Busoni Piano Concerto. It had to be the most amazing concert I have ever experienced. To see all the amazing things he was able to do is such an amazing experience. And even when playing the most virtuostic sections (and there are TONNES of them) I was so amazed by how there was still a clear musical line. It was such an exhilerating experience, one that can only be captured in a live performance.

    I personally do consider him my "favorite" pianist alive and I find him very deeply musical and emotionally moving, it works for me, not for other people I'm sure. He has a Haydn disc coming out and I do believe a disc of Brahms chamber music which I'm very excited to hear and he mentioned in 2004 that he's always wanted to record the Schubert B-flat Sonata, and I can only hope Hyperion allows him to.
     
  2. schmonz

    schmonz Amitai Schleier Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I'll be hearing Hamelin in Philadelphia tomorrow evening. The last two times I heard him live were profoundly amazing and I think I'm being reasonable in expecting the same again.
     
  3. schmonz

    schmonz Amitai Schleier Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    My expectations were exceeded. It was very profoundly amazing. My legs started wobbling during the second half, despite the fact that there was no reason they should have been doing that. I was floating around for hours afterward.

    (Bonus: my nice new Edirol sat under my front-row seat.)
     
  4. Anonymous

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    That's fantastic, what did he play??
     
  5. schmonz

    schmonz Amitai Schleier Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Here's the official program. For a first encore he played his own left-hand arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Lullaby (Op. 16, No. 1); for a second he played Debussy's Feux d'Artifice. I had to leave then (last Chinatown bus back to NYC), so I don't know what may have followed.
     
  6. Anonymous

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    A pretty interesting program. When he was at my school, he talked about wanting to record Schubert's Bb Sonata but Hyperion didn't want him to, or someone didn't want him to anyway. But I have noticed he's played it on some recital programs. I can only imagine how amazing that would be. If I cannot hear it myself I hope I find someone that has heard Hamelin take a run at it.
     
  7. rachmaninoff

    rachmaninoff New Member Piano Society Artist

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    well, I started with un sospiro for conservatory and the recording of youtube played by the great pianist is my goal. If I can play it like him I think that it will be good haha :lol:
     
  8. schmonz

    schmonz Amitai Schleier Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    He just played the 92nd St. Y in New York. Here's the Times review: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/30/arts/ ... 0hame.html

    The two encore pieces were the same as his Philadelphia recital a couple months ago. This time I got to stick around for Feux d'artifice. The sound of the downward glissando near the end, held briefly with the pedal, was unbelievably rich. Wow, wow, wow.
     
  9. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I saw Marc-Andre’ Hamelin last night in Chicago. It was a perfect warm summer night and we have in Chicago a new ( 2 or 3 years old) outside concert venue at what is called Millennium Park. The concerts are free and you bring a picnic dinner, some chairs or blankets and park yourself down on the lawn. The orchestra played Beethoven’s 8th Symphony and then Hamelin played the Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto. (I love the last movement) I was too far away to watch his hands and feet closely, but he played really, really well, as this whole pieces sounds very hard. I will have to one day see him perform again when he plays a recital and I can see better. If you’re interested, I posted some pictures of the stage and other things over in the old “post your pictures” thread, so you can say ‘hi’ to me over there.
     
  10. schmonz

    schmonz Amitai Schleier Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    He's closing out the IKIF in New York this Saturday. Can't wait!
     
  11. bclever

    bclever New Member

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    I saw Hamelin yesterday here in Chicago and the first half of the concert was utterly amazing.
    Alas the second half was the second book of Debussy's Preludes. For the first half he played
    Haydn sonata in B minor, Hob. XVI:32 and the Chopin Sonata No. 3. Wow that third movement
    of the Chopin sonata is really beautiful. There was not a dry eye in the house during that
    one I can tell you.

    When he sat down for his second encore he announced that the piece he was going to
    play was his own composition called "Little Nocturne" that he had written for a pedagogical
    magazine and had never played it before. He was inspired to play it for us by the quality
    of the piano here. It is one of at least three Steinways at Orchestra Hall. Hamelin actually
    said it was the most beautiful instrument he had ever played and we were truly blessed
    to have it. :)

    The first encore piece was Trenet [arr. Alexis Weissenberg] - En Avril a Paris which really
    sounded like a 1950's rat pack lounge piece.
     
  12. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Sounds neat, Brian. I think I would have liked that 'rat pack' piece. And I take it you're not a big fan of the Debussy preludes? I think you mentioned something about that before.
     
  13. demonic_advent

    demonic_advent New Member

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    Hamelin is definately one of my favorite pianists out there.

    It's a shame that I don't have many opportunities to out and see classical performances by professionals. And even sadder considering that I could go see the Boston Symphony Orchestra all the time... but never get a chance to go.

    I still think that his recordings of Scriabin's complete Sonatas is utterly amazing. True, there are some parts where it feels a little mechanical... but they are few and far between. It was possibly the greatest 15 (or was it 20?) dollars I've ever spent on iTunes.

    I also loved his performance of "The People United Will Never Be Defeated!"
    He brings such life to the piece, and everything just flows perfectly.
     
  14. bclever

    bclever New Member

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    Hi Monica, yes I have mentioned that I don't like Debussy in another thread. However,
    last weekend I got a DVD of an interview and recital of Hamelin and it was the same
    program he played here (except for the encores which were different). After watching
    that video over the weekend and listening to a recording of Michaelengi playing
    "Children's Corner" I've realized my error in regards to Debussy. Each piece when
    taken separately is fantastic. Even taken a few at a time they are quite nice,
    but I'm still not musically mature enough yet to handle 12 Debussy preludes in a row.
    I think most audiences can't take that much because on this disc and at symphony center
    the ambient noise level goes way up during the Debussy. More coughs, dropped items,
    people reading programs etc...

    When Richard Goode was here he played one of the preludes and fugues from WTC.
    Someone asked him after at the meet-and-greet why only one? And he said he always
    felt that the preludes and fugues were like a bouquet of roses from which he liked to
    present only one rose to his loved one. He said the WTC was a compemdium and not
    a monolithic work anyway. And that is how I feel Debussy should be presented: one or
    two at a time.
     
  15. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Only one prelude/fugue – Goode is my kind of performer! :wink:


    More nudging of one’s ‘significant other’ who has fallen asleep and is about to start snoring. (my husband :lol: )

    I usually think that whatever Debussy piece I hear sounds very nice. But I have not carefully listened to very much of his music, and I really should do that. If only there were more hours in the day…
     
  16. Mark

    Mark New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I just got back from a Hamelin concert at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Here are my observations and thoughts:

    Program:
    Berg Sonata Op. 1
    Chopin Sonata No. 2
    Alkan Concerto for Solo Piano
    Encore:
    Alkan Esquisses (I don't know the singular in French) No. 46 'La Premier Billet Doux'

    Critical Observations:
    I do actually have a recording of the Berg Sonata, but like most of my small collection of 12-tone music, I listen to it almost never, so hearing this performance was like a first hearing. He actually made it into a rather romantic piece, and although I didn't particularly follow the structure of the piece, I noticed when some of the main melodies returned in places, and I found the piece itself agreeable and his treatment of it quite intimate and nuanced.

    The Chopin Sonata is a piece that I don't have a complete affinity with. The slow movement is always wonderful, but the others always leave me feeling somewhat excited but not fully passionate. In Hamelin's hands, it was very well played. In a couple places he threw in some slightly excessive rubato, but all in all, it was very masterfully done, and the third movement was beautiful, although a little heavy-handed in places (if we're considering that it's just a movement of the whole sonata, I think its loud sections need to be taken in the context of the entire sonata and not overdone in the individual movement). Minor criticisms aside, it was clearly played by an absolute master.

    The Alkan Concerto for Solo Piano was the whole reason I went to the concert. I've had Hamelin's original recording of this piece since 2001, and have been waiting for him to perform it close enough for me to attend for years. It obviously wasn't quite note-perfect, being a very technically demanding, massive piece, but the excitement he generated and the musicality was beyond any criticism. Also, the difficulty was apparent in his face. His face usually seems meditative and removed, even when playing challenging stuff, but he was grimacing and sweating during the more intense parts.


    Technical Observations:
    Unfortunately, at this concert I wasn't sitting on keyboard side, but I was in the second row on the other side, which proved to be a mixed blessing. I almost never watch anything but a pianists hands during a performance, but I have seen Marc in recital several times in the past, and am familiar with his very facile technique, composed of very relaxed arms and rather flat fingers (I've also found it interesting in the past however, that when he plays an important black-key melodic note in a slower moving passage, he'll often ball-up his hand with several fingertips pressed against the side of his thumb and strike the key with the other side of the thumb supported against those fingers). At any rate, my inability to see his hands in this case was a mixed blessing because I spent most of my time watching his pedaling instead. He has stated in the past that with his work on the Chopin/Godowsky Etudes, he really refined his pedal technique. There wasn't anything interesting about his damper pedal work, but I was struck by the fact that in the Berg he used the una corda much more than HALF the time! His left foot was always ready, and he would sometimes just barely engage the pedal, perhaps on a couple notes that in practice with fingers alone come out just a little too loud. Also strikingly, much of his use of the pedal was during sections that were NOT quiet, apparently just to vary the piano's palette. In the Chopin as well, the una corda did much work for him. I've always thought of the una corda as a more or less binary (or I guess more appropriately "trinary") effect - either allowing the hammers to strike three strings, two strings, or one string (where applicable). Usually I do not use it, in fact, because I tend to think of it as a tool for making a soft section extra soft, and I hate the tone color contrast that it so suddenly creates. However, Marc was playing with very many gradiations in how engaged the uc pedal was. At first I was thinking of this as similar to the way some pianists wiggle their fingers on a depressed key, as if to give an impression of vibrato, but of course, actually doing nothing. But as I continued to watch, I realized that the felt of hammers is usually hardest right at the three normal string striking points, and a slight depression of the uc will still result in the hammer striking all three strings, but the felt striking them will be a little less compressed, thereby actually resulting in many more than 3 possible changes to be enacted by the uc. This was the biggest lesson for me at the concert. I'll have to play around with these ideas.

    After the concert I was lucky enough (with some friends) to be invited to an after-party at somebody's very swank upper-west end apartment. About 20 of us plus Marc and his new manager were hanging around chatting. I talked to his manager for quite a while about Marc and her vision of where he should be going (he recently switched management). I was disappointed to hear her say that she thinks the music of the ages, and the music by which a pianist is always judged is Mozart, Brahms, Schumann, etc. It's true to an extent, but I really respect and admire the verve with which he has tackled very deserving repertoire off the beaten path. However, Marc did mention several new albums he's planning, none of which are standard repertoire. He specifically mentioned a "Kaleidoscope vol. 2" that he has plans for (although his hard drive on which a potential program was laid out crashed, so that may delay its production), as well as a recording of all of his etudes. Just last week he finished writing the 11th of his etudes, and he really wants to finish the last one soon. The most amusing comment of the evening was when he said that during the recording of those etudes he'll be sweating bullets because "they're hard for me toooo..." One final bit of information that may interest people - I asked him if he's going to publish his Trenet/Weissenberg transcriptions from his recent "In A State of Jazz" CD (very cool if you haven't heard it), and he said he's really excited to do so, but he's having difficulty getting the French company that holds the rights to the original songs to respond to his requests. As soon as that is settled, the sheet music will be released:)
     
  17. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hey, Mark - I’m seeing him on Nov. 14th! I don’t recall seeing the list of pieces he will play, but I assume he will play the same as what you heard, unless he regularly changes things. I hope he does play that Berg piece though, because I’m trying to be more open-minded when it comes that kind of music. Like you, I never listen to it but feel that I’m getting older now and should step out of my little box more often and see what I’ve been missing. If Hamelin makes the music sort of ‘romantic,’ then it shouldn’t be too bad. :wink:

    Your observation about his use of the una corda pedal is very interesting to me. When I was a little girl, the piano I played on was an old grand – can’t even remember the name of it—but it wasn’t always in the best condition, and I used to play around with the u.c. pedal on it and discovered that if I barely pressed down on it, I got this sound that was so very different. Almost like a whole different instrument.

    What I didn’t know then but do now is that there is a great sound difference when applying various levels of the u.c. pedal. Back then I just thought my piano was ‘off’ and most pianos weren’t supposed to do that. But I liked it because I could use it in a piece that had repeats, thereby adding more interest for the listener (which at the time was only my dogs and guinea pigs :lol:).

    Thanks for the report.
     
  18. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    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:

    First half

    1. Haydn Sonata
    2. Haydn Sonata
    3. Weissenberg’s Sonata in a State of Jazz

    Intermission

    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. :x

    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.
     
  19. alf

    alf Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Pianist Ethan Iverson (who knows The Bad Plus?) has recently interviewed MAH and posted the very long transcript on his blog. It takes a while to read it all but totally worths it.
     
  20. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    You are right, Alfonso - that was worth it! Very interesting.

    A couple things I found most interesting:

    1. MAH said that he thinks Rachmaninoff's "Scherzo - from A Midsummer Night's Dream" is hard. That makes me feel good because I think the same thing. I worked on it recently but have put it aside for now.

    2. Busoni playing Chopin Ballades - supposedly under his fingers they are unrecognizable. I'd like to hear that!

    3. The interviewer mentioned that he can tell when a piece, or a section of a piece is played only on the white keys. I've never thought about that before. I wonder if I could tell?

    4. Chopin's "Maiden's Wish" - more specifically, Liszt's transcription. I have this one on my piano too. MAH says that he particularly likes Liszt's transcription of "My Joys". So do I!

    5. Supposedly, Grieg gave his permission to pianists who ignored some of his markings. Interesting...

    6. MAH says that his own trills are not so good. Oh, thank you for saying that, Marc! :wink:
     

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