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Hamelin Makes Chopin His Own

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Chopin, Piano Sonatas 2/3 (inter alia), M.-A. Hamelin

(released on January 13, 2009)
Hyperion CDA67706

Online scores:
Chopin's First Editions Online
Chopin has figured in the recital programs and even recordings of Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin, but this is the first time that he has devoted an entire disc to the Polish composer and pianist's pianist. Since Hamelin has not played any Chopin on his area recitals, in 2004 and an unscheduled substitution for Krystian Zimerman this past April, I had not given his interpretation of Chopin much thought until this recent release in Hamelin's fine series of recordings for Hyperion crossed my desk. Not only is Hamelin's playing extremely virtuosic, but here as noted of his recording of the Ives Concord Sonata, he is willing to push that extraordinary technique to the breaking point in the interest of a daring, dramatic interpretation. So while there is plenty of extraordinary Chopin on disc, this is the sort of Chopin that, far from wilting in a wan, tubercular introspection, grabs you by the collar and shouts to the rooftops.

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.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

I just received this CD yesterday and cannot stop listening to it. I find it aggressive but not overbearing with immense clarity of each note. A winner for sure!! Please put it on your list to buy!