Marc-André Hamelin

Saturday, January 28, 2017
Marc-André Hamelin

Note: Mr. Hamelin will appear instead of Mr. Ohlsson, who was originally scheduled to perform but could not travel to Hawai’i due to illness. Those who purchased individual tickets and wish to request a refund should call 956-8246.

Our January 28 concert featuring pianist Garrick Ohlssohn Pianist Marc-André Hamelin is ranked among the elect of world pianists for his unrivaled blend of musicianship and virtuosity in the great works of the established repertoire, as well as for his intrepid exploration of the rarities of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries – in concert and on disc.

Marc-André Hamelin is a frequent recitalist for Chicago Symphony Presents, the Cliburn, Spivey Hall, Montreal Pro Musica, Music Toronto, WPA in Washington, the Boston Celebrity Series and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Princeton University, San Francisco Performances, and in all the major concert halls in New York. Recitals in Europe include regular appearances at the Wigmore Hall in London, Munich, DeSingel in Antwerp, the Concertgebuow in Amsterdam, Moscow State Philharmonic Society, Perugia, the Heidelberg Festival and the Salzburg Mozarteum, as well as a recent three-concert residency at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam.

He has appeared repeatedly with the symphony orchestras of Chicago, New York, Boston, Cleveland, and Philadelphia. At the last of these, he played the American premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Piano Concerto (written for him) with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nezet-Seguin. In his 2014 debut with the Cleveland Orchestra in Haydn’s D Major Piano Concerto his playing was praised as “the very paragon of Classical purity, a fount of crisp, sparkling passages” (Cleveland Plain-Dealer, May 1, 2015).

 

 

In recognition of his remarkable discography, Mr. Hamelin was inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame in June 2015. Also awarded the 2006 lifetime achievement prize by the German Record Critic’s Award (Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik), Mr. Hamelin has recorded some 70 CDs for the Hyperion label, most recently a double disc of Mozart Sonatas and two recordings with the Takács Quartet featuring the piano quintets by Shostakovich and Leo Ornstein. Further highlights of Mr. Hamelin’s recent discography include a CD devoted to Schumann’s Kinderszenen and Waldszenen and Janáček’s On the Overgrown Path, which was listed as CD of the Month in both Gramophone and BBC Music magazines. His recording of Busoni’s Late Piano Works received the 2014 Echo Award of “Instrumentalist of the Year (Piano)” and “Disc of the Year” by two leading French journals, Diapason and Classica. Mr. Hamelin’s discography ranges from the neglected masterpieces of Alkan, Ives, Medtner and Roslavets to brilliantly received performances of Schumann, Brahms, Chopin, and Debussy. A series of recordings of Haydn sonatas and concertos was particularly well-received, putting Mr. Hamelin on “the shortlist of most revelatory Haydn interpreters on record” (BBC Music Magazine, June 2015).

In 2010 Mr. Hamelin joined the ranks on CD of noted composer-pianists by releasing his own highly inventive “12 Etudes in all the minor keys” on the Hyperion label and with publication by Edition Peters. Mr. Hamelin has since performed his own compositions around the world, to great critical acclaim. His Pavane variée was commissioned for the ARD Music Competition in Munich, where it was the obligatory piece for the 2014 piano competition.

 

Program

Schumann Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17
Schubert Sonata in B-flat Sonata, D. 960

Program Notes

Schumann, Fantasy for Piano in C Major, Op.17

When Robert Schumann wrote his Fantasy for Piano, he was twenty-six years old, and desperately in love. The object of his affections was one Clara Wieck, a rising young piano virtuoso, who loved him back. But the two were not allowed to see each other, or even write. Clara was the daughter of Schumann’s onetime piano teacher, Friedrich Wieck, in whose house Robert had even lived during his studies. At that time, Clara was still a child. But she was a child no longer, and in December of 1835, Robert and Clara declared their love for each other. However, by Christmastime, Herr Wieck got wind of their romance. Considering his Bohemian former pupil unsuitable for his brilliant young daughter, Wieck forced Clara to burn all the letters Robert had sent her, and to stop seeing him. Eventually, of course, Clara became Clara Schumann (though it was not till four years later, after permission had been granted from the courts.) In the meantime, the first fruit of Robert’s sorrow over their separation was this Fantasy. He would later write to his wife, “You can only understand the Fantasy if you go back to the unhappy summer of 1836 when we were separated.”

And so, the Fantasy is a love letter. But it is also more than that. At around the same time that Robert and Clara were falling in love, the city of Bonn was making plans to erect a monument to its favorite son, the recently deceased Ludwig van Beethoven. Unfortunately, the city lacked funds. And so, various musical luminaries stepped in to contribute to the cause. Franz Liszt personally contributed over ten thousand francs, and also gave fundraising concerts, including a duo recital with Chopin. Felix Mendelssohn contributed a composition, Variations sérieuses; and in the same vein, Schumann offered a work, to be published in a limited edition, with gold trim and black binding, and to be called Modest Contributions to Beethoven’s Monument: Ruins, Trophies, Palms. Schumann’s proposed method of publication didn’t end up working out, and by the time the work was published, it had been renamed Fantasy. (In the event, it was dedicated not to Clara, but to Liszt, on account of his contributions to the monument.)

In the music of the Fantasy, the stories of the Beethoven monument and of Robert and Clara’s love come together in the form of a musical quotation. About twenty years earlier, Beethoven had written a song cycle called An die ferne geliebte, or To the Distant Beloved. Schumann, with his head full of thoughts of his own distant beloved, quotes Beethoven’s song cycle in the Fantasy’s first movement. The performer of this movement, in addition to obeying Schumann’s lengthy German instructions (which may be translated as “to be played in an entirely fantastic and passionate manner” and “in the manner of a legend”) may also keep in mind what Schumann later wrote to Clara: “The first movement may well be the most passionate I have ever composed–a deep lament for you.”

Of the march-like second movement (“moderato, with energy”), Clara herself wrote: “It makes me hot and cold all over.” The finale (“slow and solemn, to be kept soft throughout”) is, unusually for a finale, gorgeous and songlike.

Schumann’s dually emotional and practical motivations for writing the Fantasy are illustrated in one further fascinating way. The composer attached a poetic epigraph to the work’s score:

 

Durch alle Töne tönet

Im bunten Erdentraum

Ein leiser Ton gezogen

Für den, der heimlich lauschet

(Resounding through all the notes

In the earth’s colorful dream

There sounds a faint long-drawn note

For the one who listens in secret)

 

The lines are by the poet Friedrich Schlegel; by coincidence, it was the poet’s brother, August Wilhelm Schlegel, a renowned Shakespeare translator, who headed the Bonn Association for the Beethoven Monument, and was responsible for Schumann’s decision to conceive of his “modest contributions” in the first place.

 

Schubert, Sonata in B-flat, D960

Franz Schubert, famously and tragically, died at the young age of thirty-one. He suffered from syphilis during the last six years of his life; but it only became seriously debilitating two months before his death. At that time, upon doctor’s advice, Schubert moved from the city of Vienna to his brother’s house in the suburbs. It was there that he wrote or completed several of his most magnificent works: the song cycle Schwanengesang, the Cello Quintet, and the final three piano sonatas.

The B-flat is the last of the three sonatas. It is not known how certain Schubert was of his impending death; but it is likely that he had at least some intimation. The sonata’s first movement begins lyrically and peacefully enough, but soon, an ominous trill disturbs the peace, a trill which insists upon returning throughout the movement. Pianist András Schiff, in conversation with the New Yorker’s Alex Ross, describes the trill’s effect this way: “I see a broad horizon, a calm ocean. It’s beautiful how often Schubert writes about the sea, even though he never saw it. Then the trill–a very distant murmuring, maybe of an approaching storm. Still very far, but approaching. It is not a pleasant noise, this murmuring. Maybe it is also the approach of death. And then silence. What other work is so full of silence?”

Chamber music aficionados will be struck by the affinities between this movement and the opening movement of the Cello Quintet–not only in its similarly massive scale, but also in thematic and harmonic likenesses. In addition, the movement’s opening theme recalls Beethoven’s Archduke Trio.

The extraordinary slow movement begins in utter bleakness, moves rapidly to pain, then resignation, and then, in its middle section, to a kind of inspired religiosity. Following this, the opening section returns with its wealth of sorrowful emotions, until a sudden shift from C-sharp minor to C Major introduces a kind of ecstatic, mystical state.

Of the scherzo and finale, Schiff tells Ross: “These last two movements are like a hallucination of a new life. They are what the dying person might experience on the threshold. The coda has a wonderful, chaotic joy in it: this rushing out, this looking for the final exit, this last flourish. Schubert is saying yes to life. There is still hope.”

—Sasha Margolis

Sat, Jan 28, 2017
7:30 p.m.
Orvis Auditorium
University of Hawaii-Manoa
2411 Dole St.
Honolulu, HI 96822

Tickets

$60 General Admission
$20 Students

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Or call the the University of Hawaii at Manoa Outreach College at 956-8246