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Marc-André Hamelin - It's All About the Music
Part I
It's all about the music: The Art of Marc-André Hamelin [47'48]
A documentary film, featuring Marc-André Hamelin, which looks at the music-making of virtuoso composer-pianists from both the present and 'golden age'. Including interviews with Ronald Stevenson, Robert Rimm and Andrew Keener, plus Marc-André Hamelin performing music by Albéniz, Alkan, Busoni, Dukas, Godowsky, Hamelin, Kapustin, Liszt, Medtner, Rzewski and Schubert.
Part II
Recital: Hamelin in Charlevoix, Quebec [47:50] including interview with Marc-André Roberge (Professor of Musicology, Laval University)
Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)
Seven Studies on Chopin's Études
The Gardens of Buitenzorg from Java Suite
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Isoldes Liebestod, S447
Ernani - Paraphrase de Concert, S432
Salvatore SCIARRINO (b 1947)
George ANTHEIL (1900-1959)
Piano Sonata No. 4 'Jazz Sonata'
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Reflets dans l'eau from Images II
Part III
Extra features [25:45]
Interview with Jay Reise (composer)
Interview with Harvey Wedeen (Professor of Piano, Temple University)
Robert Rimm (author of The Composer-Pianists: Hamelin and the Eight)
Concert performance of Busoni's Piano Concerto Op. 39, fourth movement, All' Italiana
Marc-André Hamelin; Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä
Sound format: Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitle languages: EN, FR, DE, JP
Picture format: 16:9
Picture standard: NTSC
Region code: 0 (all regions)
HYPERION DVD DVDA68000 [121:00] 


Hyperion graces us with its first DVD, one about and featuring the Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin. Part-biography, part-recital, this disc gives us a glimpse into the life and interests of one of today's most exciting pianists, and one of Hyperion's most popular artists. With a wide range of recordings - from Albéniz to Villa-Lobos, from Schumann to Ives - Hamelin is a pianist who cannot easily be pigeonholed into a specific period or type of music. 

The structure of this DVD is a bit strange: the first part is a documentary about Hamelin, and the second a recital. It would have made more sense to have the recital first, to make it the focus of the disc, and have the documentary second. This is not very important, though; the documentary merits a watching and gives some interesting perspectives about Hamelin and the music he plays. It also contains an interview with Scottish composer Ronald Stevenson, though that seems out of place, since Hamelin neither plays his music on the DVD nor has he recorded any of Stevenson's works - yet.

The second part is a recital recorded in Canada, featuring music by composers such as Godowsky, Debussy, Antheil and Liszt. Just as we see in the documentary about Hamelin, this artist is neither flamboyant nor excessive in his performances. He plays the music with great skill, virtuosity and feeling, but doesn't show off. He seems to be a pianist at the service of the composers and the music, rather than attempting to create an image of himself. This is, perhaps, the finest compliment one could make to such a great interpreter: that he interprets, rather than recreates; that his performances let the music take centre-stage, rather than placing himself in the spotlight. 

Unfortunately, this recital is interspersed with fragments of an interview with Marc-André Roberge, a Canadian musicologist. One cannot therefore simply listen to the music from beginning to end; one must suffer the comments about the music and the performer, rather than make up one's own mind. The interview bits are not chaptered in a way that it's easy to skip them, and it's a shame to have produced the disc in this manner. While these comments may be interesting once, you certainly don't want to listen to them each time you want to hear Hamelin play.

Finally, the ever-present 'extra features' - extra compared to what? - offer some more interviews, and a performance of the fourth movement of the Busoni piano concerto.

While this DVD is interesting, it tries to be too much: a recital, interviews, a documentary, more interviews; sometimes it's best to let the music take centre-stage and not try and stuff too many extras onto a disc like this. While the recital is very good, well-played, and offers a wide variety of music, there is one composer whose presence may be missed: Charles Ives. Hamelin has recorded Ives' Concord Sonata twice - once for Hyperion - and his recordings are among the best of this work. Would that Hyperion had included one movement of that extraordinary work. Unless they're planning that for their next DVD? 

This, Hyperion's first foray into the visual medium, shows that they mean well, but the program itself is too fragmented to merit multiple viewings. If only they had let Hamelin and the music he plays be the main focus of the DVD. But I'm sure they'll do better next time. 

Kirk McElhearn 


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