Pianist Hamelin breathes new life into "dead" composers

Thu Nov 14, 2013 3:05am EST
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Canadian pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin is an archaeologist-cum-miracle worker of the piano who has almost single-handedly brought "dead" 19th-century composers back to life with his powerful, nimble fingers and keen intellect.

Although he has recorded more than 50 CDs, even the keenest followers of the piano may not know much about him because he specializes in reviving composers like Medtner and Godowsky - a world away from the household names of Chopin or Schubert.

He also is no show-off, having been described as the "least ostentatious of virtuosos".

"There's a certain fashion of histrionics of the keyboard which is completely foreign to what I do," the 52-year-old Montreal native, whose father was a pharmacist and amateur pianist, told Reuters over lunch in London.

He went on to give a knock-out recital in the intimate Wigmore Hall - including a riveting performance of Nikolai Medtner's Piano Sonata No. 2, a 35-minute-long musical evocation of the vagaries of the "night wind".

"I really think that people should come to recitals and listen," added Hamelin, who has a ready smile and relaxed demeanor, but sits firmly upright at the keyboard.

"The only reason I'm on stage is to share the music that I love, share the miracle of human creativity and cause people to rethink some of their preferences and, more importantly, expand them."

To some that may sound dry, but Hamelin in person is anything but. Attempting to show an interviewer the latest in music libraries available on his mobile phone, he called up the program only to discover to his amusement he had deleted most of his files, leaving only Adele's pop hit "21".   Continued...