Hamelin at the Wigmore Hall The Pied Piper calls the tune

The Pied Piper calls the tune Hamelin at the Wigmore Hall
Marc-Andre Hamelin at the Wigmore Hall.
An amazing coincidence to find the two major advocates of Alkan playing in London on the same day.
Mark Viner in Perivale and Hamelin at the Wigmore.
Even more of a coincidence was that both had programmed the Schumann Fantasy.
Mark had infact substituted his Schumann with the much rarer Fantasy of Thalberg on themes from Lucrezia Borgia.
Hamelin is from the amazing Canadian school of pianists born on the wave of that other eclectic and reclusive figure of genius that was Glenn Gould.
I remember my old “piano daddy” Sidney Harrison telling me, after adjudicating festivals in Canada, about this young boy whose teacher had told him had spent hours just playing the first chord of Beethoven 4.
And subsequently in later years Glenn Gould even on the hottest day of the year would be clad in a thick overcoat and gloves.
Something that was later copied by pianists thinking that this is what made a genius!
Well Oscar Peterson was a piano genius in the style of Art Tatum that even Horowitz used to admire for his astounding natural gifts.
Louis Lortie,Janina Fialkowska,Angela Hewitt ,John Kimura Parker are all astounding the public worldwide with their natural musicianship.
But the most enigmatic of them all is Marc-Andre Hamelin for his searching mind and extraordinary technique like the past giants of the Golden Age of piano playing.
His only serious rival being Arcadi Volodos but who does not have the same seaching mind or the wish to delve deep into the archives to discover music that has been inexplicably neglected.
Hamlin and Mark Vinerare indeed the only serious advocates today for Alkan and his times.
Although Hamelin on this occasion presented a more conventional programme it was certainly played with a refreshingly intelligent and enquiring mind that shed much new light on works from the more standard repertoire.
A great clarity of intent made one aware of the Floristan and Eusebius elements in the Schumann Fantasy.A passionate performance.
Indeed an outpouring of love for his Clara (who has had quite an outing here in London this week.Her piano concerto with Mariam Batsashvili on the BBC and a full immersion day at the RCM).
The quote from “An die Ferne Geliebte” was quite exquisitely played and the arpeggio at the end thrown off without the usual long drawn out traditional way of ending this desperate declaration of love.
Always a great sense of architecture and line of which details are details and can be exquisite but never at the expense of the overall sense of shape of the work.
The second movement played with a real sense of almost symphonic texture that turned what can seem rather tiresome dotted rhythms into a relentless driving force that leads to the infamous final leaps before dissolving into one of the most beautiful of all Schumann’s creations.
Slightly misjudging the “Massig” and gradual crescendo of the main theme in the second movement he found the only solution possible was to add great bass notes on its final appearance.His sense of architecture had demanded a solution that corrected his initial too passionate temperament!
The sumptuous shading and delicacy in the last movement held us spellbound and the final appearance of the theme was allowed to rise to a climax so naturally before dying away to a whisper on the final three chords.This was made even more effective by his almost drawing to a halt on the theme before the reawakening of the coda.
A remarkably fine performance from a master musician.
It just had me wishing for a more generously warm cantabile sound such has remained with me all these years of Rubinstein’s memorable account on the very first occasion that I heard him in the Festival Hall in the 60`s
Starting the recital with the rarely heard Cipressi op 17 of Castelnuovo-Tedesco.
A work written in 1920 long before he fled the fascist persecution and found a refuge in Hollywood alongside Korngold,Waxman,Schoenberg .
Heifetz introduced him to MGM studios and he became a prolific composer of film scores.He also taught at Los Angeles Conservatory and could boast the late Andre Previn as one of his students.
This early piece was full of impressionist colours and showed off Hamelins vast palete of colours.Some exquisite sounds but always with the utmost clarity and rhythmic precision.
Letting his hair down after the interval with 6 song arrangements of Charles Trenet songs. They were thrown off with an infectuous nonchalance and ease with a kaleidoscope of sounds appearing from every angle.
Weissenberg was a great Bulgarian virtuoso a favourite of Karajan.
His recording of Petroushka is listened to in awe by his peers.
I heard one of his last recitals when we all travelled out to Croydon with Maria Curcio to hear his Bach Fourth Partita,Schumann Fantasie and Chopin B minor sonata.
He was already having difficulty and showed signs of fatigue at the end of the Chopin.
I will never forget though the beauty of his encore Lilacs by Rachmaninov , whom he much resembled.
Hamelin had heard his “Mr Nobody” and spent a month transcribing these unpublished arrangements from Weissenberg’s own recording.
It is worth quoting Hamelin`s own words in order to understand the uncontaminated curiosity of this extraordinary artist:
“Anyone who is familiar with Trenet`s songs in their original form is bound to be delightfully surprised by what Weissenberg has done with them.Unusual touches abound:in “Coin de rue”,an evocation of the narrator’s childhood,the listener is treated to the sounds of a barrel organ.The `oom-pah` rhythm of “Boum!”becomes a foxtrot;”Vous oubliez votre cheval” acquires elements of the Charleston;the opening of “En Avril a Paris” evokes a carousel,while the leisurely-paced “Menilmontant” is transformed into a headlong moto perpetuo.”
All this before entering into the refined world of Faure.The beautiful stillness of the Nocturne n.6 was played with unusual freedom and great sense of direction and it was eactly the link that was needed between the Paris of the early 20th century and that of the aristocratic Paris of the 19th century.
Chopin in Paris, the exile from his homeland of Poland that was in his blood but denied him since his youth.
Two works from the last years ended this fascinating recital.
The Polonaise -Fantasie op.61 and the Fourth Scherzo op.54.
The opening of the Polonaise in which the long string of notes after the arresting.chords seemed to grow out of them like a long reverberation.The long middle section was played with an unusual sense of direction and the big double trill was played so clearly but totally in the context of the long lines that were held together in such a masterly fashion. The middle section of the Scherzo was played without a hint of sentimentality and the long lines were allowed to ring out as Chopin had obviously intended.The final outburst was played with great grandeur and brought this recital to its official close.
The Schubert Moment Musicaux in A flat and Schumann`s Prophet bird from Waldscenen were played with exquisite delicacy only broken by Hamelin’s own piece commisioned by the Van Cliburn Competition to put young aspiring virtuosi through their paces.
Extraodinary feats of virtuosity abounded all played with that ease of a great master.


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