Marc-André Hamelin - Reviews


"One moment Hamelin demonically crashed out chords in the lowest register, the next teased out pianissimo plaintive utterances in the treble. He emphasized the wildness of Liszt’s narrative without derailing it.

It was a heroic journey, and at its quiet conclusion, Hamelin was given a hero’s celebration by the audience." - Liszt's Sonata in B minor, La Jolla Music Society's SummerFest Series, THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, August 25, 2016

"Whether the music called for Hamelin to play slow, stately passages or a flurry of fast notes, he responded with a ferocious intensity that perfectly suited Beethoven's beautiful music. No wonder the crowd leapt to its feet after this piece." - Beethoven's "Appassionata" at Tanglewood, MASSLIVE, August 5, 2016

"Marc-André Hamelin has made a number of outstanding recordings, yet his playing in Franck’s Quintet is in a class apart, captured in sound of almost tactile presence. There are occasions – as in the Molto moderato opening section – when he appears to be merely breathing on the keys, shaping phrases with acute sensitivity to mood and atmosphere." - Franck Piano Quintet with Takács Quartet CD review, THE STRAD, June 16, 2016

"...his playing in the Piano Concerto No. 17 was offered like a flute of fine prosecco: witty, scintillating, joyful, lit with a warm golden glow" - Mozart Piano Concert K. 453 with NAC Orchestra, OTTAWA CITIZEN, May 25, 2016

"The three Book 2 "Images" of Debussy found Hamelin the subtle colorist, operating in his impressionist element. "Cloches a travers les feuilles" ("Bells Sounding Across the Leaves") delighted in delicate sprays of arpeggios over finely controlled washes of piano pastels. Both the second piece and "Poissons d'or" ("Goldfish") were object lessons in applying soft dynamic gradations without any loss of tonal presence." - Recital at Orchestra Hall, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, May 23, 2016

"Above all, this was a profoundly musical interpretation, one in which the listener was able to marvel at the sheer detail of Rachmaninov’s compositional magic while revelling in the virtuosic ease that Hamelin brought to it." - Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, BACHTRACK, March 10, 2016

" How good to hear this music not used as a vehicle for ‘self’, and how well the writing takes to a leisurely but not indulged approach, yet with no lack of emotion or spirit and encompassing an unfailing sense of direction." - Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, CLASSICAL SOURCE, March 9, 2016

"The nuances of [Marc-Andre Hamelin's] playing brought to light the astonishing craft in Mendelssohn’s work." - Mendolssohn's Piano Concert No. 1 with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, THE TORONTO STAR, February 26, 2016

"Mr. Hamelin, having spent much of his early career exploring pianistic showpieces on the fringes of the repertory, has a commanding technique. But there was no sense of slumming or condescension. As in his brilliant recordings of Haydn sonatas for Hyperion, Mr. Hamelin approached the relative simplicities with warmth and affection."  - Recital at Carnegie Hall, THE NEW YORK TIMES, January 21, 2016

“[Hamelin] made a brilliant fist of [Ravel‘s Left Hand Concerto]. Since the work dwells largely in the piano’s smoky lower regions, Hamelin found the ideal touch and tone... his lyrical flights and virtuoso cascades had such richness and amplitude that one completely forgot it was all from just one hand. His two-handed Debussy encore had lovely grace and power.“   Ravel‘s Left Hand Piano Concerto w/ BBC Proms, THE INDEPENDENT, August 16, 2015

“Handling with care, but not with restraint, Hamelin indulged in Ravel’s jazz-influenced rhythms and harmonies. His enjoyment was transmitted to the audience who were stunned by Hamelin’s performance.“   - Ravel‘s Left Hand Piano Concerto w/ BBC Proms, SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL, August 14, 2015

“The highlight of the evening, Ravel‘s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, which brought out the best in conductor, orchestra and the soloist Marc-André Hamelin...the whole reading had a convincing shape and heft.“   - Ravel‘s Left Hand Piano Concerto w/ BBC Proms, THE ARTS DESK, August 13, 2015

“The ‘jazz’ was darkly edgy, the Mother Goose-like episodes glinted in contrast and Hamelin’s dexterity was impressive... Hamelin offered an encore that was truly exceptional... This was as delicate as you can imagine, yet carrying effortlessly in the Royal Albert Hall – pastel-shaded, so sensitive, and wonderfully alluring and transporting.“   - Ravel‘s Left Hand Piano Concerto w/ BBC Proms, CLASSICAL SOURCE, August 12, 2015

“Mr. Hamelin, with his preternatural clarity and control, qualities that in him don’t preclude sensitivity and even poetry, was an ideal interpreter... When the performance ended, and Mr. Wyner was called to the stage, he bowed not to the audience but to Mr. Hamelin, giving gratitude where it was due.“   - Recital at International Keyboard Institute & Festival, THE NEW YORK TIMES, July 20, 2015

“Marc-André Hamelin has effectively defined himself by espousing the repertory of pianist/composers such as Liszt and Alkan and making the extreme virtuosity they demand look simple. In this Cheltenham music festival morning recital, it was this ease of technique that made his playing of Debussy’s second book of Images so fluid, with tone colours graduated to create a vibrant resonance.“   - Recital at Cheltenham Music Festival, THE GUARDIAN, July 3, 2015

“Ten-finger cascades of chords and jack-hammer rhythms intensify into a tour de force. And what does Hamelin do? He not only attacks this monster piece with visceral power in an insane tempo, he also appears brazenly poised doing it. Straight back, relaxed arms. No trace of the hard work that this is supposed to be.“   - Recital in Hamburg, HAMBURGER ABENDBLATT, June 29, 2015

“The piano‘s elaborate entrance provides an opportunity for showmanship, but Hamelin‘s performance was remarkable from the start for its seeming effortlessness and beauty of tone, no matter how intricate the music. His sound was round, silken and smooth, yet with laser-like articulation as well as thoughtful, personal phrasing.“   - Beethoven Concerto No. 5 "Emperor" w/ New Jersey Symphony,THE STAR-LEDGER, June 9, 2015

“Mr. Hamelin continues his triumphant march through the standard repertory, after years spent exploring arcane material heavy on virtuosic display. The “Emperor” Concerto, for all its musical substance, offers ample scope for virtuosity, and Mr. Hamelin showed his usual easy command in a reading as notable for its exquisite pianissimos and beautifully shaped phrases as for its Beethovenian bluster.“   - Beethoven Concerto No. 5 "Emperor" w/ New Jersey Symphony, THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 8, 2015

“Despite being famous for a muscular brand of pianism, Hamelin took all the fluttering delicacy of Les fées sont d’exquises danseuses in his stride... The Takács Quartet and pianist Marc-André Hamelin were a fine match in a Debussy-dominated programme... utmost virtuosity!“   - Chamber recital w/ the Takacs Quartet at Queen Elizabeth Hall, THE TELEGRAPH, May 19, 2015

“None, though, ranked as highly on the clarity scale as pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin... His Adagio was a thing of special beauty. Through him was channeled Haydn himself, engrossed at the keyboard in a moment of profound, personal reflection. Silken phrasing, Hamelin‘s fairy-like touch, and the score‘s own gentle dissonance combined to conjure a musical scene rare both then and today.“   - Haydn Piano Concerto w/ the Cleveland Orchestra, THE PLAIN DEALER, May 1, 2015

“Hamelin made it clear in his Grieg Concerto performance that he brings more than a set of speedy digits to the concert stage. He is an intelligent and thoughtful artist, one who illuminates the tender eloquence of the Grieg as well as the thundering octaves and bravura flourishes. Hamelin’s clarity of touch was especially evident in the first-movement cadenza, which he played with great freedom.“   - Grieg Piano Concerto w/ Seattle Symphony, THE SEATTLE TIMES, April 24, 2015

“Schubert‘s Piano Sonata in B-flat... utterly distinctive to him and rendered in a manner that could only have been cultivated over multiple decades at the keyboard... Though this sonata is full of repeated notes in regular rhythms, no such thing existed in Hamelin‘s performance but was always handled with deeply considered expressive purpose, shaping phrases with such richness and authority that I often thought, ‘So that‘s what it means!‘... Hamelin‘s virtuoso piano technique was fully harnessed in the service of Schubert‘s unvirtuosic music, allowing soft playing to make a more penetrating impression than usual.“   - Schubert and Debussy recital at Kimmel Center, THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, April 2, 2015

“Hamelin achieved an incredible and sensuous sound at the piano along with his clear and articulate touch... Technically Hamelin was flawless and his mastery and facility at the piano was revealed in this piece, which was enjoyable to experience.“   - Haydn & Mozart on tour w/ Les Violons du Roy, KC METROPOLIS, March 18, 2015

“Hamelin joined for a crisp, but warm, account of Mozart‘s A major Rondo and a brilliant version of Haydn‘s D major Piano Concerto.“   - Haydn & Mozart on tour w/ Les Violons du Roy, THE BALTIMORE SUN, March 18, 2015

“Hamelin performed the Rondo with a light, delicate touch, relaxed yet expressive. He gave the appearance of considering each phrase with due care, finely shaping each note.“   - Haydn & Mozart on tour w/ Les Violons du Roy, THE MORNING CALL, March 12, 2015

“Hamelin is known as a titanic interpreter of late Romantic and 20th-century showstoppers, but the beauty of his Mozart and Haydn shows the extraordinary versatility of his talents: supple, sensitive phrasing, dreamy legato and, always, that golden sound.“   - Haydn & Mozart on tour w/ Les Violons du Roy, OTTAWA CITIZEN, March 8, 2015

“Hamelin exhibited his extraordinary touch... brought more tonal definition to the next piece, a supreme example of impressionism impeccably delivered. It seemed impossible to do what he did, musically making sense of avalanches of chords and arpeggiated passages, balancing dynamics without crossing the imaginary line into gauche or inappropriate.“   - Recital of Field, Hamelin, Debussy and Schubert, THE WHOLENOTE, March 2, 2015

“The sensual elements of breeze, vibration, currents and splash were deftly evoked, especially by Hamelin’s magical undulations, so floating it was as if he had turned the keys into silk.“   - Recital of Field, Hamelin, Debussy and Schubert, MUSICAL TORONTO, March 1, 2015

“Is it possible for a pianist to be too good? If anyone faces jeopardy with that question, it’s Marc-André Hamelin... Outwardly miraculous, beneath the surface it felt as if each note’s every possibility had been considered in advance, then ensconced in a pianism of total authority.“   - 92nd Street Y Recital, THE NEW YORK TIMES, February 22, 2015

Is there anything Marc-André Hamelin can‘t do at the piano?... He was precise and startlingly bright in the Messiaen, giving no sense of effort in confronting the piece‘s considerable technical demands. In Liszt‘s over-the-top virtuoso showpiece, a set of variations on the “Dies Irae“ cast as a quasi-concerto, he gave the keyboard pyrotechnics their full due while still completely in control of touch and tone throughout, with no slop... [He was] urged to return by a riotous ovation.“   - Messiaen and Liszt w/ Oregon Symphony, THE OREGONIAN, January 11, 2015

“Marc-André Hamelin’s stature, extraordinary from the start, increases with every new issue. And here in his latest album he subdues his legendary, transcendent technique to convey Debussy’s very essence with a surpassing ease and naturalness... Hamelin’s glistening sonority is flawlessly captured by the Hyperion team. This is a disc to treasure.“   - CD: Debussy Images and Preludes, GRAMOPHONE, November 21, 2014

“A rich collection for piano connoisseurs of the late Romantic period, performed with impeccable polish and insight by Marc-André Hamelin... Hamelin combines spectacular technique with a clear and immediate understanding of this music.“   - CD: Busoni - Late Piano Music, AUDIOPHILE AUDITION, November 20, 2014

"The seductive tone Hamelin and first violinist Edward Dusinberre brought to their soft solos was almost as disquieting as the tension of their agitated outbursts. And the performance as a whole was a thrilling exception to the over prepared and under characterized readings that dominate concert halls today."   - Franck Quintet w/ the Takacs Quartet, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, October 17, 2014

“Two sets of variations penned by Hamelin demonstrated the composer-pianist’s forte for executing arpeggios and complicated runs. Of the two, “Pavane Variée,” a new composition this year, was filled with impossibly difficult counterpoint, yet Hamelin breezed through the runs with no problem... Hamelin demonstrated his broad and long experience with keyboard Romantics by applying just the right nuances of dynamics and rhythm... Hamelin’s extensive experience and training again created a beautiful rendering of this late Beethoven work. Hamelin demonstrated a commanding elegance in making the first movement runs perfect, filled with light and air.“   - Recital at The Lied Center, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, THE LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR, October 7, 2014

“Hamelin begins with the thorny, grief-stricken Janácek and works his way back, through Schumann’s storybook forest scenes to his evocation of (mostly) innocent childhood. It’s an intriguing journey, not least because you can hear, in Hamelin’s playing, how the two composers relate.“   - CD: Schumann and Janacek, THE BOSTON GLOBE, September 13, 2014

“Mr. Hamelin offered a typically virtuosic performance of the whirlwind, chaotic work, whose driving rhythms and cluster chords are interspersed with brief moments of pensive respite.“   - Recital at the int‘l Keyboard Institute & Festival, THE NEW YORK TIMES, July 22, 2014

“Hamelin made it feel as if he were Schubert himself composing the piece right before our ears, inviting us into his world. That sense of freshness and urgency hung like a glow throughout the leisurely paced first two movements.“   - Recital at Aspen Music Festival, THE ASPEN TIMES, July 19, 2014

“[On an Overgrown Path] proves to be a totally compelling experience confirming Hamelin‘s strong empathy for the composer…and the two Schumann cycles here are absolutely magical.“    - Recording of the Month: Janacek and Schumann, BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE, June 1, 2014

“Hamelin did so with absolute conviction, his springy rhythms and crystalline fingerwork balanced against the strings and winds in such a way that there was a feeling of easy give-and-take between the piano and orchestra. Hamelin and Labadie are close colleagues and their musical responses to each were like the conversation of kindred souls. “   - Haydn Piano Cto w/ Chicago Symphony and Bernard Labadie, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, May 9, 2014

“The score showcased Hamelin’s saturated touch — from hushed clusters to hammered accents, one always feels that Hamelin is drawing the maximum amount of color from the instrument.“   - Trio concert w/ Anthony Marwood and Alexander Fiterstein, BOSTON GLOBE, May 5, 2014

“Their ensemble playing transcended the expected level of professionalism and shot straight into musical camaraderie.“   - Trio concert w/ Anthony Marwood and Alexander Fiterstein, SAN FRANCISCO CLASSICAL VOICE, April 30, 2014

“The longer partnership between Marwood and Hamelin could be heard in the tautly coiled rhythms of Schubert‘s Rondo in B Minor, which opened the evening in a superb rendition that was all theatrical vigor and sharp swerves of direction.“   - Trio concert w/ Anthony Marwood and Alexander Fiterstein, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, April 29, 2014

“In Franck’s Variations symphoniques for piano and orchestra, Hamelin exhibited spectacular touch, crisp but blooming, tossing off glittering flourishes with ease as well as care. His softer playing was tender, and his phrasing was made supple by tasteful rubato.“   - Franck Symphony Variations w/ New York Phil and Sir Andrew Davis, NEW YORK CLASSICAL REVIEW, April 25, 2014

“It was exhilarating to hear this paragon of virtuosic refinement allow himself a more impetuous mode of playing... As usual with this pianist, however, the playing frequently silenced criticism. The martial dotted rhythms that open the sonata were astonishingly crisp, exactly as Brahms must have wanted...“   - Brahms sonatas w/ Emanuel Ax at Symphony Hall, THE BOSTON GLOBE, April 15, 2014