Pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin gives compelling recital at Shriver Hall
That chord, which launched a transcription by Tivadar Szanto of Bach's G minor Fantasia and Fugue for organ, was articulated not just with terrific force, but a delectable richness of tone as well.
Hamelin, justly famed for his technical prowess, seemed to be saying: Who needs a pipe organ to make this music shake the place?
He offered myriad dynamics; he articulated the trickiest of passages without the slightest trace of effort; he delivered expressive impact with every phrase.
You could same the same for the rest of the program, which celebrated the full range of the piano (made you feel a little sorry for those pianists who have gravely decided to focus squarely on the sacred Mozart-Beethoven-Schubert canon).
Hamelin's evident delight in every one of the 88 keys could not have been more obvious than in ...
his own composition, Variations on a Theme of Paganini, a wild and witty piece that had many in the audience laughing at each surprise along the way. In addition to droll quotations from the likes of Beethoven and Liszt, there are clever references to -- even some deconstruction of -- Rachmaninoff's Paganini Rhapsody.
Rachmaninoff also figured prominently on the recital. Hamelin tore into the Second Sonata with a blend of startling bravura and white-hot lyricism, creating an action-packed tone poem. Two Preludes (Nos. 5 and 12) from Op. 32 were exquisitely sculpted.
Hamelin's subtle side also found a potent outlet in Busoni's rarely heard Sonatina No. 2, a work with hallucinatory harmony, a sense of moonlit mystery. The pianist maintained remarkable tension here, and made the elusive music speak eloquently.
Hamelin moved without a break into another harmonically misty world, delivering Debussy's "Images" (Book 1) and "L'Isle Joyeuse" with a coruscant tone and finely nuanced phrasing.
The overflow house (seats were added onstage) clearly wanted more after the last thunderous rush of the Rachmaninoff sonata brought the program to a close. Hamelin obliged with a disarming about-face as an encore -- the famous movement of Mozart's C major Sonata (K. 545) that every piano student tackles before long.
This music is light years away, in style and keyboard range, from the recital's sound world, but Hamelin made it just as fulfilling. His tonally delicate, rhythmically elastic handling of the first theme's recapitulation was but one magical touch, one more reminder of this pianist's distinctive artistry.
PHOTO BY SIM CANETTY-CLARKE