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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.