Haydn, Piano Sonatas, Vol. 3, M.-A. Hamelin (2012)
Liszt, Piano Sonata (inter alia), M.-A. Hamelin (2011)
In the first category was the opening work, Bach's Great G Minor Fantasia and Fugue, BWV 542, in the expansive transcription by Tivadar Szántó. Conceived by Bach for the organ, it is a piece beloved of many composers and performers -- Liszt, among others, arranged it for piano -- and one had the sense of Hamelin meditating on one of music's ancient scriptures. With a liberal use of the sustaining pedal, applied in all sorts of interesting ways, Hamelin gave the prelude a vast scope, both crushing in volume on fully voiced chords and glowing in a haze of sound at other points. The fugue had both crystalline clarity and massive textures in turn, astounding in fortitude of tone. Put Hamelin's own set of variations on a theme of Paganini -- the theme of Paganini, the one subjected to outrageous variations in his 24th Caprice -- in the same category. Part circus march, part homage to various composers -- snippets of Beethoven, Mozart, and tribute to Rachmaninoff, Chopin, and Stravinsky -- the piece is a hoot and Hamelin played it fearlessly.
For our pianistic edification, there was Ferrucio Busoni's rarely played Piano Sonatina No. 2, an enigmatic piece that is radically unlike what is implied by the unassuming word "sonatina." Hamelin sought to unravel every eccentric tangle of the piece, reveling in its contrapuntal complexities -- a connection to the Bach that had preceded it -- and its harmonic extravagance. To draw a connection between Busoni and the Debussy that followed it, he used the work's odd conclusion to hold the audience in silence, beginning the first book of Images after a short pause. Through his scrupulous control of hand weight, Hamelin gave these three pieces an extraordinary transparency, creating the sense of imperceptible mists in Reflets dans l'eau and a blurred, almost atomic instability in Mouvement, of motion captured in a series of frozen stills. Only the middle movement, Hommage à Rameau, disappointed slightly -- sultry, but a little slow and dull, not catching the Baroque delight in rhythm. The set was capped off by a virtuostic, aquatically shimmering reading of L'Isle joyeuse.
Tim Smith, Pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin gives compelling recital at Shriver Hall (Baltimore Sun, January 28)
---, Marc-Andre Hamelin to make Shriver Hall recital debut (Baltimore Sun, January 26)
Jens F. Laurson, Ionarts-at-Large: Marc-André Hamelin at the Herkulessaal (Ionarts, December 16, 2012)
We will be back at Shriver Hall next month for the recital by mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená and pianist Yefim Bronfman (February 17, 5:30 pm).