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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: 5 minutes 1 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 7 in E flat minor 'after Tchaikovsky, for the left hand alone'
2006; after Tchaikovsky's Op 16 No 1 song Kolïbel'naya pesnya ('Lullaby' or 'Cradle song'); published by C. F. Peters Corp., New York

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The initial idea to make an arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Lullaby Op 16 No 1 for Étude No 7, after Tchaikovsky (for the left hand alone), came because of my performances of it as pianist in the original version for voice and piano. My transformation of it came about after the song simply started rolling around in my head insistently one day, to the point where I had to do something about it.

In composing for the left hand alone, I am contributing to a long and noble tradition. Unlike some composers, I don’t regard writing for one hand as an opportunity to display pianistic proficiency; instead I consider it a fascinating compositional constraint. Such writing presents quite a challenge. Indeed, there is not much point in composing for one hand unless one tries to make the textures as rich as possible, and it is a special delight to try to make one hand sound like two. This is precisely what is attempted here, and for this reason the chief difficulty of the piece resides in the proper control of the pedal. Only the most careful handling of it will ensure the seamlessness and the richness of texture that ultimately creates the illusion of two-handed playing.

Although I had been aware of Rachmaninov’s (two-handed) arrangement for many years before I wrote this one, I had never actually heard it. Not until after I had finished mine did I patiently wade through Rachmaninov’s seven-flatted forest.

from notes by Marc-André Hamelin © 2010

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