Chopin, Piano Sonatas 2/3 (inter alia), M.-A. Hamelin
(released on January 13, 2009)
Chopin's First Editions Online
In fact, Hamelin has more or less jumped near the top of the list of my favorite living Chopin players, surpassing Louis Lortie, Hélène Grimaud, Grigory Sokolov, Nelson Freire, and Ingrid Fliter to attain the heights of Yundi Li and even Maurizio Pollini, if not quite yet Evgeny Kissin. As a point of reference, Grimaud's playing of Chopin's second sonata paled in my ears next to the memory, still vivid, of Pollini's rendering of the Marche funèbre, voiced to imitate the sound of a military band, of the sort that accompanied funeral processions in Paris. The third sonata has an example of Hamelin's brinkmanship in the unhinged second movement, a scherzo in which he takes the meaning of the Molto vivace tempo marking literally, playing at the edge of manic disintegration. There are moments of softly shaded colors, too, but for the greatest variation in search of the broadest range of moods and contrasts, Alexandre Tharaud is my current favorite.