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Hyperion Records

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Still of Marc-André Hamelin from the film Des pas sur la neige.
CLC Productions, 2009
Track(s) taken from CDA67789
Recording details: November 2009
Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: September 2010
Total duration: 3 minutes 59 seconds

'Dear Marc-André, I begged and pleaded for Hyperion to keep this disc under wraps. But now that it's released, all of us composer / pianists have no choice but to go out of business. Isn't it enough for you simply to be the world's most proficient pianist? Do you also have to compose amazingly well for your instrument, and rewardingly so? Must you serve up some of the most witty, charming, entertaining and devastatingly effective piano music of your generation?' (Gramophone)

'Hamelin's original etudes … as well as the character pieces that round out the disc, with their blend of tasteful lyricism and striking textures and harmonies, are as enjoyable as his homages. While brashly flaunting his influences (Gershwin, Poulenc, Rachmaninov) he sounds utterly individual. Of course, the composer makes all the technical difficulties sound easy to play in these vividly recorded performances' (BBC Music Magazine)

'A set of 12 Études that reveals Hamelin's immersion in the great virtuoso tradition … Hamelin the composer has the same kind of tact and imagination that Hamelin the pianist does … the virtuoso demands are daunting; but there's so much harmonic and contrapuntal interest in these works, so much sheer joie de vivre, such evident love for the instrument and its history, and such consistent wit, that even music lovers who disdain virtuoso excess are likely to be seduced … in its gentle luminosity, the [Theme and Variations] is the most touching work on the CD. Hamelin the pianist, of course, plays with his usual understated virtuosity—his unerring control of phrasing, articulation and dynamics; his ability to generate huge masses of sound without banging; his succulent legato; and, most important in the more thorny textures, his ability to give each contrapuntal line its own flavour … the engineering is first rate. A cause for celebration' (International Record Review)

'One of this extraordinary musician's finest achievements, indeed, one of the great solo piano recordings ever made' (Fanfare, USA)

'These are astounding pieces … with a hint of frenetic, sometimes out-and-out grotesque, madness. They bar no holds where technical extremes are concerned … these are the other individual works on this superlative disc cover anythign from grandiose Romanticism to 20th-century stride' (The Scotsman)

Étude No 4 in C minor 'Étude à mouvement perpétuellement semblable, after Alkan'
2005; a combination of Alkan's Étude en mouvement semblable et perpétuel, Op 76 No 3 and the finale of the Symphony for solo piano, Op 39 No 7, incorporating elements the Le festin d'Ésope, Op 39 No 12; published by C. F. Peters Corp., New York

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
No 4, Étude à mouvement perpétuellement semblable (after Alkan), is a combination of two études by Charles-Valentin Alkan, namely the Étude en mouvement semblable et perpétuel, Op 76 No 3 and the finale of the Symphonie for solo piano, Op 39 No 7. The idea of combining these two works contrapuntally was not mine—it must be credited to my friend the composer Alistair Hinton, a towering musical intellect to whom concepts of this kind occur naturally and easily.

I didn’t compose this étude without some hesitation, since I’ve always believed that basing a work on material that is little known to the general public is a useless enterprise. But in this case, I found Alistair’s idea so irresistible that I had to make an exception, so that ultimately work on this étude concerned carrying a germinal idea to a satisfying conclusion, with thoughts of actual performance being secondary. But I hope that the end result can still be appreciated even by those who have not been exposed to Alkan’s music in general, and to these two works in particular.

Those who are familiar with the two source works will realize that this étude is a very free exploitation of Alkan’s original material. As with the Triple Étude, a literal superimposition of both pieces would have been impossible and pointless. I have chosen instead to fashion a work that is somewhat different from either of the two sources while still retaining large chunks of the original music; many portions of the originals are not utilized. Alkan connoisseurs will also note that the theme of his remarkable set of variations Le festin d’Ésope makes a few uninvited appearances. The title is a slightly self-deprecating take on Alkan’s own; ‘perpétuellement semblable’ implies something like ‘always the same old thing’.

from notes by Marc-André Hamelin © 2010

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