N. Medtner, Complete Piano Sonatas / Forgotten Melodies, M.-A. Hamelin (Hyperion, 1998)
Anne Midgette, At Kennedy Center, Marc-Andre Hamelin doesn’t seem to find anything difficult (Washington Post, November 27)
Michael Roddy, Circus Galop: Canadian Pianist Marc-André Hamelin on Performing, Composing and 'Synethesia' (Reuters, November 14)
Niels Swinkels, Marc-André Hamelin and the Mystery of Human Creativity (San Francisco Classical Voice, November 11)
Ivan Hewett, Marc-André Hamelin, Wigmore Hall, review (The Telegraph, November 5)
Andrew Clements, Busoni: Late Piano Music – review (The Guardian, October 30)
Charles T. Downey, Hamelin @ Shriver Hall (Ionarts, January 29)
Why do you howl, night wind?
Why do you complain insanely?
Your voice is strange. What does it mean?
First muffled, pitiful, then loud?
My heart understands your tongue,
your tale of madness it can't,
and at times you uproot and plow up
frenzied noises in your words!
Don't sing these songs,
these fearsome songs
of ancient Chaos, kindred Chaos!
How avidly the inner soul of night
hears the beloved tale!
It wants to burst from the breast,
it wants to merge with the boundless.
Oh, do not wake the sleeping storms -
Chaos writhes beneath them!
-- Fyodor Tyutchev (1803-1873)
An encore seemed unlikely after the Schubert, although Hamelin told an interviewer that he always has "several pieces" prepared and will play them depending on the audience's reaction ("I will play as many as they want, basically" -- perhaps if the audience had insisted more). In retrospect, it was difficult to expect other music to have preceded D. 960 as well, but here was where Hamelin's love of obscure music made the difference. (He told the same interviewer that the piece he has never performed but would most like to is Pierre Boulez's second sonata, which he ranks with D. 960 and Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.) In John Field's short and sweet Andante inédit (E-flat major, H. 64), Hamelin's light touch reminded me of his charming way with the music of Haydn. It was a good balance for the monster that loomed after it, Nikolai Medtner's tempestuous E minor sonata (op. 25, no. 2), known as "Night Wind" because it was inspired by a poem by Fyodor Tyutchev (see the translation in the sidebar). Medtner dedicated the piece to Rachmaninoff, with whose music it has a lot in common, but where Rachmaninoff's tendency toward sentimentality often grates on my nerves, Medtner drowns the ear in contrapuntal complexity, which Hamelin patiently pulled apart into separate strands. Motifs of clanging bells, howling winds, and lost songs are buried in tangles of chromatic vagaries, hand crossings, and impossible technical challenges, as the piece reels drunkenly from poetic reverie to frenzied rapture. WPAS, which had trouble filling the larger hall at Strathmore for Hamelin's last recital, in 2011, learned its lesson, and there were still, to my amazement, empty seats in the much smaller Terrace Theater.
Another great Schubert piece, the Wanderer Fantasy, is the focus of Rob Kapilow's next What Makes It Great? lecture series (December 15, 6 pm), presented by WPAS at the National Museum of Natural History. Following the lecture, pianist Yuliya Gorenman will perform the work in its entirety.