Colin Anderson
January 2024

Marc-André Hamelin’s imagination feeds engaging invention in nine compositions for piano—and he can play them, too. Perhaps inevitably he couldn’t resist adding to the Paganini commentaries (based on the seemingly inexhaustible Twenty-Fourth Caprice for violin), invoking Rachmaninov in the process, and Liszt (in terms of campanology). As for My feelings about chocolate, it would appear to be ninety-percent cocoa … and what follows holds the attention for the surprises of the unknown (and becomes known if not entirely familiar until next time): the six pieces 'in old form' are bright-day jazzy, whereas the Barcarolle is fathoms-deep in expression—one marking is 'ondeggiando' (undulating)—and magnetises the ears through its economy, each note significant. Otherwise a meeting with Beethoven (and Diabelli) is short if pugilistic, and the Pavane is as varied as the title suggests, which would have been a fitting climax to the seventy-four-minute recital, were it not for the sinewy substance of the Chaconne that follows. For the final lap, Meditation on Laura (David Raksin’s song) invites from a distance, and Toccata on L’homme armé builds to a powerful conclusion. With first-class sound from Oscar Torres (January 2023, Henry Wood Hall, London) and Andrew Keener’s production values, with the pianist-composer doing the rest, Hyperion CDA68308 is eminently recommendable and revealing.