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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: 4 minutes 44 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 8 in B flat minor 'Erlkönig, after Goethe'
2007; published by C. F. Peters Corp., New York

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
It should be said straight away that Erlkönig, Étude No 8, has nothing to do musically with the Schubert song of the same name. However, they do have a common source, one of the most masterful poems in the entire German literature. My piece is basically a faithful setting of this poem, adhering to it as closely as any vocal setting, the only difference being that I repeated the first four lines for musical reasons.

As novel as the idea might seem, this is not the first time that Goethe’s poem has been given a non-vocal setting. So far as I know that distinction belongs to Alexis Hollaender, who sometime during the first decade of the twentieth century fashioned a short work for left hand alone that also adheres to the text. It was Hollaender’s piece that started me thinking about using the poem for an étude, but the seed may have been planted many years earlier. While still at school I came across a quotation of Johann Friedrich Reichardt’s vocal setting in Donald Jay Grout’s A History of Western Music; I remember then being struck by how different an approach Reichardt had adopted from the Schubert we are all familiar with. (Other settings from the same period include those by Loewe, Spohr and Zelter, all available on Schubert's Friends and Contemporaries.)

The performer is of course expected to know Goethe’s poem; familiarity with it is absolutely essential to a successful performance, especially in order to give a different tone to all the characters in the story. I have attempted to paint a picture in sound of the poem’s many facets. For example, at the end of the child’s second Erlking hallucination, he can be felt trying to say ‘Mein Vater, mein Vater’ before he fully wakes up and actually says it, and this is reflected in the different dynamics given to each hand.

from notes by Marc-André Hamelin © 2010

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