A Hug for a Veteran Composer from Hamelin

05/08/2015

  Liszt, Yehudi Wyner, Chopin: Marc-André Hamelin (piano), International Keyboard Institute and Festival, The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, New York City. 19.7.2015 (BH)

Liszt: Apparition No. 1 in F sharp minor, S. 155 No. 1
Waldesrauschen, S. 145 No. 1
Un sospiro, S. 144, No. 3
Ernani Paraphrase (second version), S. 432
Réminiscences de Norma (after Bellini), S. 394
Yehudi Wyner: Toward the Center (1988)
Chopin: Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35

It is hardly news that pianists love Chopin and Liszt. But flanking those two, the most touching moment in Marc-André Hamelin’s recital at the Kaye Playhouse came when the pianist welcomed the 86-year-old composer Yehudi Wyner to the stage, greeting him with an affectionate embrace. Wyner, who has been graced with many awards and currently serves as President of the American Academy of Arts & Letters, is highly regarded, but his work is off the radar for many listeners. He wrote Toward the Center to honor the 1988 retirement of Yale University School of Music pianist and teacher Ward Davenny, and the result shows a commensurate multi-faceted admiration. Lasting about 15 minutes, the angular, high-energy fantasy seemed perfectly suited to Hamelin’s bent for expressivity combined with intellectual curiosity.

Hamelin’s annual appearances at the International Keyboard Institute and Festival (IKIF) have drawn piano aficionados from all over the country. While I confess a slight longing for the festival’s former home—the intimate hall at Mannes School of Music, seating around 200—the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College made it possible for three times the number of people to experience Hamelin’s artistry. And the rapt audience was notable for its silence.

The first half was devoted to Liszt, starting with control and patience in the glittering Apparition No. 1. In Waldesrauschen, the pianist summoned a room-filling luxuriance from the hall’s impressive Bösendorfer instrument, and his right and left hands displayed synchronization many pianists would envy. The understated Un suspiro showed Hamelin’s ability to wrest drama out of the composer’s unusual chord progressions, especially during the final 60 seconds. In the paraphrase from Verdi’s Ernani, octaves were implanted like steel girders in an immense pool of sound, and the thundering conclusion to Réminiscences de Norma sparked applause seconds before the last granitic chord had died away.

Hamelin aptly made the “March funebre” the centerpiece of Chopin’s second Sonata, and the sheer presence of sound was immediate, impressively solemn, and never cloying—the difference between seeing a photograph of a sculpture, and witnessing it in person. In the menacing Scherzo, the pianist expertly shaped the dreamlike oasis at the center, as well as the Presto finale. Debussy’s dreamily pentatonic “Reflets dans l’eau” made a delicious encore—the only one, even with a loud audience pleading and stamping its approval. A great pianist knows when to stop.

 

Bruce Hodges

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Opera North’s Kiss Me, Kate Comes to the London Coliseum and Edinburgh __________________________________
  • NEW! Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
 in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Sunday International Concerts Series in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! Salzburg Whitsun Festival 7 – 10 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bolshoi Ballet 2018/19 UK Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Holland Park’s 2018 Season Begins Soon __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 CBSO at Symphony Hall, Birmingham __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 BBC NOW in Cardiff and Swansea __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018/19 Birmingham Classical Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe Star in The King and I at the London Palladium __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 BBC Proms __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Celebrates its 25th Anniversary with Nicolò Isouard’s Cinderella __________________________________
  • NEW! Pop-Up Opera’s 2018 Mozart Double Bill __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! How Our Grandparents Decided How We Should Listen to Music __________________________________
  • NEW! Abandoned Liszt Opera Sardanapalo Premieres in Weimar in August __________________________________
  • NEW! THE TENOR RUSSELL THOMAS IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! RAFAL BLECHACZ IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! MARKUS POSCHNER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Massenet’s Thaïs at the Cadogan Hall on 23 June __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Carly Paoli Sings for Chelsea Pensioners, at Cadogan Hall, and Signs for Sony/ATV __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • NEW! MICHAEL SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! Trinity Laban Moves to Abolish All-Male Composer Concerts __________________________________
  • NEW! ARABELLA STEINBACHER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR LAURENCE EQUILBEY IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH LISETTE OROPESA AS SHE RETURNS TO LA OPERA FOR ORFEO ED EURIDICE __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month