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Music Features

Pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin: A Complete Musician

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Fran Kaufman
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Marc-Andre Hamelin

A complete musician. That's what the Canadian publication La Presse said about our good friend, pianist and concert artist Marc-Andre Hamelin. Here's the actual quote:

“Beyond his electrifying technical skills, the Montreal native is probably one of the most complete musicians of his generation: a virtuoso, certainly – in the noblest sense of the term – a real musical thinker, himself a composer, whose appetite to devour the repertoire has led to the discovery of a few pearls previously reserved for the connoisseurs, which he interprets with a rare intelligence, and which he handles with the same integrity whether his subject is Haydn, Beethoven or the music of today.”   

Knowing Marc as well as we do, we couldn't agree more.  In fact, we've been so stupefied in trying to describe Marc's exquisite artistry that we're going to keep that quote in our wallet for the next time we're asked about him.

For those who don't know him, Marc-Andre Hamelin is a native of Montreal, Quebec, and has spent some time living here in Philly.  In fact, he's a Temple University graduate, coming here after studying at the École de musique Vincent-d'Indy in Montreal.  He now makes his home in Boston with his wife, fellow pianist and WGBH-FM classical music host, Cathy Fuller.

In 1985 he won the Carnegie Hall International Competition for American Music, and in 1989 he was awarded the Virginia Parker Prize.  In 2004 Marc received the international record award in Cannes. He has been made an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Chevalier de l'Ordre national du Québec (National Order of Québec).  But that only scratches the surface of his accomplishments.

He records for Hyperion Records, and has released CDs that run the gamut from the tried-and-true classical piano workhorses to some of the least-known composers and works, such as those by Leo Ornstein, Nikolai Roslavets and Georgy Catoire.  

His discography also encompasses the works of pianist-composers like Leopold Godowsky, Charles-Valentin Alkan, Nikolai Kapustin, Franz Liszt, Nikolai Medtner and others. He's also recorded his own compositions, among them his set of piano études in all of the minor keys, which was completed in September 2009 and is published by C. F. Peters.

Having had the distinct pleasure of watching and listening to Marc perform here at the WRTI studios, one can only be struck with how at ease he is at the keyboard, and how easy he makes it look.  Much like himself - one of the most pleasant, easy-going  musicians we've ever met. But the only way you make things look easy is by working hard, and boy, does he!

We caught up with Marc-Andre Hamelin last January when he was in town performing with The Philadelphia Orchestra. In this show, you'll hear music from two of his latest CDs, Images #1 and 2, and Preludes Book II of Claude Debussy, and a combination disc with Robert Schumann's Kinderszenen and Waldszenen plus Leos Janacek's On the Overgrown Path I.  

Crossover, Saturday morning at 11:30 on WRTI-FM, with an encore the following Friday evening at 7 on WRTI-HD2. Both airings can be heard on the All-Classical web stream at wrti.org.