Hamelin Magic

Newcastle Herald
Thursday January 27, 2000

IN the first Newcastle concert series of the century, the Australian Chamber Orchestra will welcome the acclaimed French-Canadian pianist, Marc-Andre Hamelin, who is making his Australian debut.

In a world crowded with outstanding pianists, Mr Hamelin has carved a special niche as a super-virtuoso (as the New York Times once stated). His feats of `rampant supernova pianism’, as one of many awestruck critics noted, are abundantly evident in his growing list of recordings for Hyperion.

But he is no mere clockwork wizard of the ivories. He is a great champion of the music of lesser-known composers of the past 150 years such as Medtner, Godowsky, Scriabin, Korngold, Henselt, Grainger and particularly the composer-pianist Alkan, whose compositions are notoriously difficult to play.

Mr Hamelin has the ability to perform colossal virtuosic repertoire, and critics have hailed his playing style as unassuming and lacking exhibitionism. He is often favourably compared to fellow Canadian Glenn Gould and possesses a pianism that is known for both its commanding authoritative presence, and its lightness and delicacy.

It all started for Mr Hamelin only about 15 years ago when he won first prize at the 1985 Carnegie Hall International American Music Competition. He went on to establish himself on the European and North American concert circuit.

Graduating from the Vincent d’Indy School of Music in Canada and Temple University in Philadelphia, he has appeared with the orchestras of Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Montreal, Netherlands Radio and BBC Philharmonic among others.

In the forthcoming ACO concert which features Mr Hamelin, he has chosen the Third Piano Concerto (C minor, Op 37) by Ludwig van Beethoven to showcase his interpretative and technical ability.

`I enjoy playing Beethoven as much as anything else,’ Mr Hamelin said from his home in Canada before embarking on his trip to Australia.

`Just because I am asked for little-known and difficult repertoire does not mean for a moment that I would neglect more standard repertoire.

`I’m looking forward to playing a master work such as this concerto with this dynamic orchestra,’ he said.

As well as the concerto, there will also be the Paris Symphony by Mozart (No 31, D major, K 297) as well as the much-loved Pastoral Symphony by Beethoven.

This Beethoven symphony, so beloved for its descriptive, bucolic warmth, brings to the stage as large an instrumentation and symphonic a sound that will ever be heard by the ACO.

The concert is on Wednesday, February 16, at the Newcastle City Hall starting at 8pm. Tickets range from $26 to $39, and are available through Ticketek on 4929-1977, or at the door.

 © 2000 Newcastle Herald

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