Is Hamelin the best??

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Steinway
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Is Hamelin the best??

Post by Steinway » Sat Jan 16, 2010 11:17 am

The following review is by David Patrick Stearns, the excellent music critic. He knows his stuff and his opinion of Hamelin speaks for itself.

If I had to pick only one, Hamelin would be it. :D

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/magazine/81649447.html

maestrob
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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by maestrob » Sat Jan 16, 2010 11:26 am

Everything I've ever heard from him shines, from Haydn to Brahms, to Godowsky. Hamelin is quite a remarkable artist, who excels in both standard and off-beat repertoire. If he's not the best we have, well, at his level, does it make sense to compare?

The only pianist I know in today's crop that I would mention in the same breath would be Argerich.

josé echenique
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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by josé echenique » Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:01 pm

I have heard Hamelin live several times, and he was often magnificent, from Schubert´s D.960 Sonata to some of the Godowsky/Chopin Etudes he played as encores. But in some "regular" Chopin he played, notably the Sonata #3 and the Ballade #3 he was less happy. He sounded impatient and rushed things a little. In the same concert he played Alexis Weissenberg´s Sonate en état de Jazz, and somehow he managed to make Weissenberg more masterful, more shapely than Chopin!!! There are other active pianists that deserve to be called "the best": Martha Argerich, Maurizio Pollini and Krystian Zimerman certainly, Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Nelson Freire...and probably no one plays Mozart and Haydn better these days than Andreas Staier.

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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by Lance » Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:50 pm

It would be very difficult to select only one magnificent artist out of many to be hailed as singularly “the best,” but Marc-André Hamelin surely is among them. I, too, have been greatly enamoured of his work with Alkan, Haydn, and the myriad composers he performs and records that few other pianists play either in solo literature or concerted works. I was less enamoured with his recorded Chopin and Schumann though even there, they are admirable performances lacking only in (for me) a certain kind of ... Romantic passion ... is one way I might describe it. But do I love the man's art? Absolutely! Near as I know, I have 99.9% of his recorded output and I'm not sure what that 1/10th of a percentage point would even be.
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hangos
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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by hangos » Sat Jan 16, 2010 1:56 pm

maestrob wrote:Everything I've ever heard from him shines, from Haydn to Brahms, to Godowsky. Hamelin is quite a remarkable artist, who excels in both standard and off-beat repertoire. If he's not the best we have, well, at his level, does it make sense to compare?

The only pianist I know in today's crop that I would mention in the same breath would be Argerich.
Agreed, on both counts - they both make everything sound easy, because they play with consummate ease and without fear
Martin

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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by MarkC » Sat Jan 16, 2010 2:02 pm

josé echenique wrote:I have heard Hamelin live several times, and he was often magnificent, from Schubert´s D.960 Sonata to some of the Godowsky/Chopin Etudes he played as encores. But in some "regular" Chopin he played, notably the Sonata #3 and the Ballade #3 he was less happy. He sounded impatient and rushed things a little. In the same concert he played Alexis Weissenberg's Sonate en état de Jazz, and somehow he managed to make Weissenberg more masterful, more shapely than Chopin!!!.....
Very interesting -- I've never heard him "live" and I appreciate this concise little orientation on what to expect and look for. I'm very eager to hear him.
Don't expect me to be sane, I'm playing Scriabin
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ySs4aQ8 ... D6&index=0

hangos
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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by hangos » Sat Jan 16, 2010 2:03 pm

Lance wrote:It would be very difficult to select only one magnificent artist out of many to be hailed as singularly “the best,” but Marc-André Hamelin surely is among them. I, too, have been greatly enamoured of his work with Alkan, Haydn, and the myriad composers he performs and records that few other pianists play either in solo literature or concerted works. I was less enamoured with his recorded Chopin and Schumann though even there, they are admirable performances lacking only in (for me) a certain kind of ... Romantic passion ... is one way I might describe it. But do I love the man's art? Absolutely! Near as I know, I have 99.9% of his recorded output and I'm not sure what that 1/10th of a percentage point would even be.
A quality of which Argerich could rarely, if ever, be accused :?
Martin

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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by pizza » Sat Jan 16, 2010 2:07 pm

I agree with Lance. There are quite a few pianists today that are top echelon, and certainly M-A H is among them. I would include Ivan Moravec as one the great Chopin players, and Boris Berezovsky is as magnificent in Russian repertoire as any pianist currently active.

I have quite a few of Hamelin's recordings, and have rarely been disappointed. Even where I take issue with his approach to the music, such as his Scriabin set which I think is somewhat "slick" for want of a better word, I still enjoy his playing. No question that he is one of the greats, but there is no single "best" pianist and there never was.

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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by Tiger » Sat Jan 16, 2010 3:05 pm

pizza wrote:I agree with Lance. There are quite a few pianists today that are top echelon, and certainly M-A H is among them. I would include Ivan Moravec as one the great Chopin players, and Boris Berezovsky is as magnificent in Russian repertoire as any pianist currently active.

I have quite a few of Hamelin's recordings, and have rarely been disappointed. Even where I take issue with his approach to the music, such as his Scriabin set which I think is somewhat "slick" for want of a better word, I still enjoy his playing. No question that he is one of the greats, but there is no single "best" pianist and there never was.
Although Hamelin is a wizard of the keyboard, I haven't been particularly impressed with his recordings of some of my favorite composers: Haydn, Schumann and Scriabin. So, at the moment, I'd have to say he's overrated.

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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by Chalkperson » Sat Jan 16, 2010 3:35 pm

Tiger wrote:Although Hamelin is a wizard of the keyboard, I haven't been particularly impressed with his recordings of some of my favorite composers: Haydn, Schumann and Scriabin. So, at the moment, I'd have to say he's overrated.
I agree, I can't understand what all the fuss is about, can't put my finger on it, he's a superb technician of course, but his playing lacks something, musicality perhaps...he says, ducking... :wink:
Sent via Twitter by @chalkperson

MarkC
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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by MarkC » Sat Jan 16, 2010 3:39 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
Tiger wrote:Although Hamelin is a wizard of the keyboard, I haven't been particularly impressed with his recordings of some of my favorite composers: Haydn, Schumann and Scriabin. So, at the moment, I'd have to say he's overrated.
I agree, I can't understand what all the fuss is about, can't put my finger on it, he's a superb technician of course, but his playing lacks something, musicality perhaps...he says, ducking... :wink:
That's why I'm itching to hear him "live."

Guitarist
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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by Guitarist » Sat Jan 16, 2010 4:39 pm

Lance wrote: [...] they are admirable performances lacking only in (for me) a certain kind of ... Romantic passion ... is one way I might describe it.
That applies to most of his recordings. If he had that last ounce of "oomph" that most Russian pianists have (Berman, Richter, Horowitz, Volodos, Matsuev, etc.), then he'd be perfect: awesome technique, intellect, and passion. It's not that his playing is dry by any means...I just get the sense that he's holding something back.

Holden Fourth
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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by Holden Fourth » Sat Jan 16, 2010 5:33 pm

A couple of years ago there was a video on Youtube of a live performance of LvB Op 109. In this performance MAH certainly showed that he has the credentials to also be a top Beethoven performer. I was hoping that this was the beginning of some sort of essay of the piano sonatas but it hasn't occurred.

The other interesting thing is that he's recorded the Godowsky-Chopin Etudes but not the Op 10/25. Surely he would have needed a sound knowledge of the originals before committing the Godowsky to CD.

Ricordanza
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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by Ricordanza » Sat Jan 16, 2010 6:23 pm

MarkC wrote:
josé echenique wrote:I have heard Hamelin live several times, and he was often magnificent, from Schubert´s D.960 Sonata to some of the Godowsky/Chopin Etudes he played as encores. But in some "regular" Chopin he played, notably the Sonata #3 and the Ballade #3 he was less happy. He sounded impatient and rushed things a little. In the same concert he played Alexis Weissenberg's Sonate en état de Jazz, and somehow he managed to make Weissenberg more masterful, more shapely than Chopin!!!.....
Very interesting -- I've never heard him "live" and I appreciate this concise little orientation on what to expect and look for. I'm very eager to hear him.
To Mark, or anyone else who has yet to hear Hamelin in concert, my recommendation is GO!

I have had the pleasure of hearing Hamelin live at least ten times, starting with a unique recital at the now-closed Tower Classical Annex on South Street in Philadelphia on June 9, 1996. As good as his recordings are, the true measure of a pianist is in concert, particularly solo recital. By this measure, I share in the opinions above that Hamelin is one of the greatest performing today.

Yes, there is an occasional piece or movement that I find not entirely satisfying. But that's a quibble which doesn't diminish my overall admiration for this artist. Someone mentioned a lack of passion??? Well, they didn't hear what Harris and I heard on Wednesday evening when he performed the Liszt Sonata.

I anxiously await the next time I can hear Hamelin in concert.

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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by CharmNewton » Sat Jan 16, 2010 7:45 pm

What I've heard of Hamelin (Chopin from a CD and broadcast recital and the first Haydn 2-CD set), I didn't enjoy his playing. It recital sounded rushed and lacking in polish. The Haydn CDs I found boring. The Chopin CD was somewhat better, but I much prefer the playing of Rafal Blechacz, for example.

John

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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by MarkC » Sun Jan 17, 2010 12:13 am

Ricordanza wrote:......As good as his recordings are, the true measure of a pianist is in concert, particularly solo recital......
Absolutely -- and these days, maybe especially as good as his recordings or anybody's recordings are.

And in this case, "good" doesn't necessarily mean just good.

As we all know, with the exception of the occasional "live" recording, they wouldn't be caught dead releasing a CD that isn't "perfect." Which causes a lot of things, many of them bad. It's way beyond how slips can be corrected, which of course in itself gives an aspect of unreality and therefore isn't all good. It also puts the performer under a certain constraint, which can take away from the artistry, personality, spontaneity, and a million other things we might say. Plus, it can result in a patchwork of a piece that doesn't represent a single run-through or a single conception.

You need to hear him in concert.

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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by GK » Sun Jan 17, 2010 12:45 am

After the Hatto scandal in which major music critics couldn't discern that umpteen different pianists were responsible for the Hatto discs, in some cases praising the "Hatto" version after panning the original, can anyone really tell the differences among prominent pianists?

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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by josé echenique » Sun Jan 17, 2010 12:50 am

Hamelin has made some truly extraordinary recordings. His Busoni Piano Concerto is even better than Ogdon´s, and the Medtner sonatas are to die for. As I said, he´s a strange but wonderful pianist, he can play unusual music like a god, but sometimes in standard repertoire the results can be less than memorable, so it´s very understandable that people will tell very different stories about him. If you want to get to know him on records look for his Godowsky, Medtner, Alkan or Busoni, and let Zimerman do the Chopin and Lupu the Schumann.

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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by MarkC » Sun Jan 17, 2010 1:34 am

GK wrote:After the Hatto scandal in which major music critics couldn't discern that umpteen different pianists were responsible for the Hatto discs, in some cases praising the "Hatto" version after panning the original, can anyone really tell the differences among prominent pianists?
Yes. :)

Just because some people are m0r0ns or can have a bad day doesn't mean there are aren't differences or that we can't tell.
Don't expect me to be sane, I'm playing Scriabin
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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by slofstra » Sun Jan 17, 2010 12:51 pm

MarkC wrote:
GK wrote:After the Hatto scandal in which major music critics couldn't discern that umpteen different pianists were responsible for the Hatto discs, in some cases praising the "Hatto" version after panning the original, can anyone really tell the differences among prominent pianists?
Yes. :)

Just because some people are m0r0ns or can have a bad day doesn't mean there are aren't differences or that we can't tell.
The differences in ability alone are often of very slight degree. Differences in style, manner, expertise, focus and serendipity are greater determinants in the merit of particular performances or recordings.

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Re: Is Hamelin the best??

Post by arglebargle » Sun Jan 17, 2010 6:34 pm

GK wrote:After the Hatto scandal in which major music critics couldn't discern that umpteen different pianists were responsible for the Hatto discs, in some cases praising the "Hatto" version after panning the original, can anyone really tell the differences among prominent pianists?
A most interesting bit of recent musical history from a layman's perspective - I can certainly tell the difference between a recording I'll return to, one that will be great for variety, and one destined for the rarely-if-ever bin, within a few seconds typically - I know that sounds a little off-handed but the first impression results usually hold true.

Of course there's a lot more affecting a recording than "only" the performer's ability, in other words there are more qualities or clues to go by in a recording. In a dream scenario where I'm sitting with my back turned while a series of greats plays the same piece on the same instrument in the same room one after another, I'll admit I'd be hard pressed to do any better than chance in identifying them - but I'm just a casual listener-collector.

Regarding Hamelin, I don't feel he's necessarily the best overall but that's more a comment on the strength of his competition. I have a set of Haydn solo keyboard works which I'd consider the best recorded on a modern piano, he seems to find the most effective approach with say H.XIV,50 as compared to Brendel, Schornsheim, Staier, or Brautigam whose recordings are all sound slower, faster, weaker, or heavier in various places to me. Now, this is not a "first love" situation, my first hearing of this piece would have been by someone else I can't recall, then a number of others including those mentioned, and only fairly recently the Hamelin which replaced Brendel for top spot.
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