Marc-André Hamelin, pianist

Photograph of Marc-André Hamelin (© Peter Schaaf)
© Peter Schaaf

Winner of the 1985 Carnegie Hall Competition, Marc-André Hamelin was born in Montréal. He studied at the Vincent d’Indy School of Music and Temple University in Philadelphia where he now lives. His principal teachers were Yvonne Hubert, Harvey Wedeen and Russell Sherman.

Now well established in both North America and Europe, Marc-André Hamelin has given recitals in Amsterdam, Belfast, Berlin, Frankfurt, Istanbul, London, Luxembourg, Mexico City, Milan, Montréal, Munich, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, Tokyo, Toronto, Vienna, Washington and Warsaw. Festival appearances have included Blackheath Halls Pianoworks (London), Duszniki, Espoo, La Grange de Meslay, Manchester Glories of the Keyboard, Ravinia, Singapore International Piano Festival and Snape Maltings Proms. Following the success of his June 1994 Wigmore Hall series Virtuoso Romantics, Marc-André Hamelin was invited to give recitals in the Wigmore Hall Masterconcert Series and the International Piano Series at the South Bank. He returned to Wigmore Hall for a three-part series in June 1999 entitled Exploration & Celebration. In Spring 2000, London’s Blackheath Halls presented a weekend of Marc-André Hamelin & Friends.

Recent concerto performances have included appearances with the orchestras of Birmingham, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, Lahti, Minneapolis, Montpellier, Montreal, Netherlands Radio, Philadelphia, BBC Philharmonic and Scottish Symphony, Polish National Radio, Royal Concertgebouw, Toronto, Vancouver, Ulster Orchestra and a tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Conductors he has played under include Matthias Bamert, Dennis Russell Davies, Andrew Davis, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Günther Herbig, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Leif Segerstam, Vassili Sinaisky, Dmitry Sitkovetsky, Leonard Slatkin, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Osmo Vänskä, Hans Vonk, Hugh Wolff and David Zinman.

Under an exclusive contract with Hyperion Marc-André Hamelin has recorded concertos by Alkan, Henselt, Korngold and Joseph Marx with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, ‘Live at Wigmore Hall’, discs of Alkan (Canadian Juno Award 1996), Catoire, Grainger (Soundscapes Award 1997, Australia), Liszt, Reger, Roslavets, Rzewski, Schumann, The Composer-Pianists from Alkan to Hamelin (Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik 1997 & 1998) and the complete sonatas of both Medtner and Skryabin. His recording of the epic Busoni Concerto with the CBSO under Mark Elder has received resounding critical acclaim. More recent releases include a CD of Villa-Lobos, Bernstein’s The Age of Anxiety with the William Bolcom Concerto (with the Ulster Orchestra) and another album of Alkan. The recording of the complete Godowsky 53 Studies on the Chopin Études won the 2000 Gramophone Instrumental Award. He was the only classical artist to play live at the 2001 Grammy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles when both the Busoni concerto and the Chopin/Godowsky Studies were nominated. His most recent Alkan recording is nominated for a 2002 Grammy Award. Future releases include music by Ornstein, Liszt and Szymanowski.

In November 2000 Marc-André Hamelin gave a recital at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in New York and in February 2001 he returned to New York to take part in the Liszt Series at 92nd Street Y. In Spring 2001 he played the Busoni Concerto with Lahti Symphony, L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and Tokyo Philharmonic (Japanese première). Further performances of the Busoni Concerto are scheduled with CBSO and Sakari Oramo in Bolzano and with Dallas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton. Current concerto engagements include performances with the Basel, Montréal, Toronto and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestras. As well as recitals at De Singel, Antwerp, Le Domaine Forget and Schwetzingen Festivals, he returns to Birmingham, Bremen, the Harrods International Piano Series at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, Kaiserslautern, Lanaudière International Festival, Milan, Montréal, Munich, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Québec, La Roque d’Anthéron, Scotia Festival (Halifax), Schloss vor Husum and Toronto. In Tokyo in January 1999 he embarked on a series of six recitals over four years titled 200 Years of Pianism with Marc-André Hamelin; he completed this in March 2002. “His seemingly limitless technique gave an exhilarating sense, not of the pianist’s own powers, but of the potential of the human spirit” (Tamara Bernstein, The National Post, Toronto).

With performances of the concerti of Busoni and Marx, the Chopin/Godowsky and Alkan studies, the sonatas of Medtner and Skryabin, Reger’s Bach Variations, Szymanowski’s Second Sonata and Schmitt’s Piano Quintet, Marc-André Hamelin may be regarded as having taken Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji as one of his principal repertoire guides; to all these works, largely neglected in and immediately after their own time, Sorabji drew enthusiastic attention in his critical writings.

Like Skryabin and Godowsky before him, Marc-André Hamelin has to date concentrated almost exclusively on his own instrument in his compositions and transcriptions, many of which, as may be expected, reflect his own remarkable pianism.

In 2002, Amadeus Press published Robert Rimm’s book The Composer-Pianists: Hamelin and The Eight, the result of its author’s long-standing collaboration with Marc-André Hamelin which also brought about the Hyperion recording Marc-André Hamelin Plays the Composer-Pianists.

In 2005, Marc-André Hamelin was honoured to be made Officer of the Order of Canada and a Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Québec.