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Hyperion Records

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Reclining Female Nude (c1844/5) by Jean-François Millet (1814-1875)
Musée d'Orsay, Paris / Peter Willi / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67706
Recording details: March 2008
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: January 2009
Total duration: 4 minutes 27 seconds

'Though Hamelin has made many fabulous discs, particularly in repertoire of superhuman virtuosity, this is one of his very finest achievements to date' (Gramophone)

'Hamelin's impeccable pianism allows him to make light work of the most demanding passages. The first movement [Third Sonata] is as imposing as you would expect of a player renowned for his staggering virtuosity, but a solid framework also underpins moments of wonderful delicacy. Hamelin builds the Second Sonata just as unerringly, producing a poetic and passionate performance that is finally carried off on a spectral wind … Hyperion's new release adds up to a hugely satisfying Chopin recital' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Hamelin's fabulous, transcendental technique takes all the challenges of the treacherous keyboard writing in its stride … Hamelin's pianissimos have a wonderful purity and definition' (The Guardian)

'In the Op 27 Nocturnes his hesitations are masterly, while the Berceuse, the seductive opening track, shimmers with pensive beauty … an excellent excursion into standard repertoire for this adventurous pianist' (The Times)

'Chopin’s second and third piano sonatas lie at the heart of the Romantic piano literature, and Hamelin, a poet among virtuosos, brings sensibility and a brilliant technique in equal measure to this oft-recorded music … this is the Chopin of a true Romantic, spellbinding at its (considerable) best and superbly recorded' (The Sunday Times)

'This is Chopin playing of a superior kind in which a musician of penetrating intellect is able to observe every detail of these miraculous scores … this is a fine example of supreme technical skill at the service of musical poetry' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Hamelin turns on the nightlight, emphasizing the music's poetry as Chopin's nearly elfin lyricism is the engine behind his music's unearthly beauty. Hamelin inhabits this music utterly, revealing a purely aesthetic ear that is not usually attributed to him. He allows each piece to unfold organically while shaping its broad outlines with a seductive lyrical poetry. Hamelin unfurls Chopin's elegant filigreed lines with ease while never losing the music's inner logic … these are world class Chopin performances' (Audiophile Audition, USA)

'It has been a delight to see Marc-André Hamelin, who long explored the bravura fringes of the piano literature, work his way deeper into the standard repertory. The second volume of his survey of Haydn piano sonatas for Hyperion could just as easily have been listed here. Chopin, meanwhile, offers full scope not only for his bravura impulses (which he indulges lustily) but also for an astonishing lyrical gift that increasingly comes to light. The opening Berceuse in D flat is melting' (The New York Times)

Berceuse in D flat major, Op 57
composer
1843; originally entitled Variantes; published in 1845; dedicated to Mme Elise Gavard

Other recordings available for download
Garrick Ohlsson (piano)
Stephen Hough (piano)
Lívia Rév (piano)
Nikolai Demidenko (piano)
Alfred Cortot (piano)
Ignacy Jan Paderewski (piano)
Harold Bauer (piano)
Moriz Rosenthal (piano)
Moriz Rosenthal (piano)
Eileen Joyce (piano)
Solomon (piano)
Raoul Pugno (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
A few months before he completed the B minor Sonata, Chopin put the finishing touches to his Berceuse Op 57. The original title was Variantes, and this describes its final form rather well: a set of sixteen short variations on an ostinato ground (there is a sketch of the work that lays this structure out rather graphically, even numbering the ‘variantes’). Another interesting detail here is that Chopin originally intended to plunge straight into the melody, and only added the two-bar genre-defining introduction at a late stage, quite possibly at the moment he changed the title from Variantes to Berceuse. In some ways the work functions rather like a set of baroque ‘divisions’, but this scarcely does justice to the highly original treatment of the ornamental line. The key point is that the curve of complexity (ever more rapid filigree) remains divorced not just from the underlying harmonic progression (a simple repeating cycle) but also from the dynamic shape (a stable level, remaining in low dynamics throughout). What is original here is that the shape of the music—its sense of departure and return—is created almost entirely through texture and sonority. It is not hard to see why Debussy was so interested in the music of Chopin.

from notes by Jim Samson © 2009


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