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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67300
Recording details: August 2001
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: January 2002
Total duration: 18 minutes 47 seconds

'Hamelin’s performance is a magnificent achievement … All lovers of Godowsky’s magic will snap up this finely recorded album' (Gramophone)

'Breathtakingly brilliant … Marc-André Hamelin proves not only that it’s possible, but that it’s definitely worth the effort. Revelatory’ (BBC Music Magazine)

'a work that becomes more fascinating and absorbing with repeated hearings … this is a mandatory disc for Godowskyites and for connoisseurs of great pianism' (International Record Review)

'Hamelin’s performance, as one might expect, is magnificent in every way, charged with intensity, colorful, clear, and richly detailed by means of the pianist’s consummate technique' (American Record Guide)

'Spellbinding performances … a heightened degree of poetic sensitivity … a rare eloquence, courtesy of Hamelin’s jaw-dropping pianism' (Classic FM Magazine)

'eloquent, pointed, and moving … A recommendation would be superfluous – this is one for the ages' (Fanfare, USA)

'Marc-André Hamelin easily copes, both musically and technically; no doubt Godowsky would have approved' (Pianist)

'Handily coupled and as well played as you're ever likely to hear' (International Piano)

'Marc-André Hamelin has the phenomenal technique and razor-sharp musical intellect to succeed with this music where others usually fail … In Hamelin we have a pianist not only equal to the task, but enthusiastic about it … this is a recording every pinaophile should hear and hear again! … an astonishing achievement, imaginatively created and brilliantly realised – and beautifully recorded as well. What a bonus' (

'Hamelin has something extra—a touch of demonic fire … Hamelin turns out a breathtaking performance' (Punch)

'On sait que Marc-André Hamelin possède l’une des plus remarquables techniques pianistiques de notre temps, et l’on ne peut que le remercier de la mettre au service d’œvres méconnues' (Répertoire, France)

'Marc-André Hamelin passe son ‘examen de virtousité’ avec panache' (Le Monde de la Musique, France)

'Marc-André Hamelin, pianiste ‘d’élite’ des causes virtuoses (et rarement perdues), sait nous convaincre de l’intérêt de cette œvre' (Classica, France)

Passacaglia '44 variations, cadenza and fugue on the opening of Schubert's 'Unfinished' Symphony'

Other recordings available for download
Rian De Waal (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Passacaglia (44 variations, cadenza and fugue on the opening theme of Schubert’s ‘Unfinished Symphony’) was completed in October 1927. It was Godowsky’s last major composition, written as a tribute to Schubert on the centenary of his death. While the variations and cadenza were composed swiftly in about a fortnight, the fugue took him several more weeks. Its completion gave him ‘new strength and a feeling of aloofness … I simply believe that [the Passacaglia] is a great expression of human loftiness. While composing it I felt that I was purifying my soul and looking closer into eternity’.

Abram Chasins, who knew Godowsky well at this time, recalled in his book Speaking of Pianists the evening when he, along with a few others (including the great Josef Hofmann), gathered in Godowsky’s apartment in New York to hear the work for the first time. The composer played it from green-coloured proof sheets stacked on the piano rack. ‘And how he played! This was sheer enchantment, both the work itself and Godowsky’s pianism. It had the cool, colorful clarity of a stained-glass window. Although I was greatly moved and impressed by what I heard, Godowsky’s effortless mastery made me unaware of the vastness of his pianistic feat that night. Years later I realized it when one of the great virtuosos told me he had worked on the “fiendish piece” for a year, several hours each day, and had finally given up the unequal struggle. “It is impossible to master”, he said. I felt tactful that day and refrained from telling him with what devastating ease Godowsky had disposed of it, making it seem like nothing at all.’ Simon Barere played it, Vladimir Horowitz prepared it but never programmed it (though his reported excuse for not doing so—‘It needs six hands to play it’—is surely a comment on something other than his digital ability). Yet until recently very few had tackled it in public. Godowsky gave its London premiere at the Queen’s Hall in April 1928; Rian de Waal gave its second London performance in April 1991.

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 1991

Other albums featuring this work
'Godowsky: Piano Music' (CDH55206)
Godowsky: Piano Music
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55206  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  

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