Balakirev, Khachaturian with Hamelin and London Philharmonic Orchestra
February 19th, 2014
7:30 PM GMT
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Osmo Vänkä, conductor
Click here to live stream the London Philharmonic Orchestra concert featuring Marc-André Hamelin playing:
BALAKIREV: Islamey, Oriental fantasy
KHACHATURIAN: Piano Concerto
New York Times: A Lively Jaunt With Medtner, Schubert and Chopin
I’m a little ashamed to admit I wasn’t entirely looking forward to the pianist Marc-André Hamelin’s recital on Monday evening at Zankel Hall. The centerpiece was a rare performance of the Sonata in E minor (Op. 25, No. 2) by Nicolas Medtner (1880-1951), a Russian composer — well known neither in his time nor ours — championed by Mr. Hamelin.
I listened to two recordings, took a look at the score and was doubtful. A continuous half-hour movement, the opulent Romantic sonata, written in 1910 and ’11 and nicknamed the “Night Wind,” sounded murky, meandering and pointlessly showoffy: a lot, and yet not very much.
But Mr. Hamelin helped me see the error of my ways. In his hands — international treasures, left and right — the sonata came to life, grand and soulful. It was single-mindedly propulsive but also kaleidoscopic in texture and color, going from lush to stark in a single tumble of notes.
It seems strange to say of this rich sundae of a work but here the “Night Wind” was almost restrained, sensitive without being cloying. Mr. Hamelin’s reputation as a pianist more formidable than feeling — more hands than heart — has never been quite fair, but he certainly doesn’t lay sentiment on thick, a quality that served him well on Monday.
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Marc-André Hamelin in a recital on Monday at Zankel Hall; the centerpiece of the evening was the Sonata in E minor (Op. 25, No. 2) by the composer Nicolas Medtner.Ruby Washington/The New York TimesThe score’s challenges — the swooping runs and punishing length — were barely noticeable. It was a given that Mr. Hamelin, a lover of obscurities who has recorded all 14 Medtner sonatas <http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/al.asp?al=CDA67221/4> for Hyperion, would play with tremendous technical accomplishment, but his dazzling, tireless fingers were always in the service of emotion; decorations always emphasized the work’s architecture. The difficulties seemed organic, not gratuitous.
The performance’s wit was more of a surprise, from a frisky polonaise-style rhythm in one passage to another, not long after, with quick little Morse code-ish intrusions in the melodic line. By the end, without ever losing his fundamental calm, Mr. Hamelin was in a deep groove, unleashing a sudden burst of volume before just as suddenly dropping back into a misty suavity that also characterized his own Barcarolle (2012), which opened the recital.
In Schubert’s Four Impromptus (D. 935), Mr. Hamelin seemed to be attempting a mercurial, Medtner-like mix of subdued beauty and brassy exclamation: strong, even exaggerated contrasts. It was an interpretation sometimes easier to admire than love, most effective in the Impromptu No. 2, whose spacious beginning allowed a section of flowing triplets to feel like a dam had been broken. When the noble chords of the opening returned at the end they sounded chastened, struggling to conjure their old authority.
Three encores — Debussy’s delicate “Reflets dans l’eau,” Mr. Hamelin’s winking version of Chopin’s “Minute Waltz” and a serene, confident rendition of Paul de Schlözer’s fearsome Etude No. 2 in A-flat — closed an exhilarating evening.
Zachary Woolfe - New York Times - January 28, 2014