Marc-André Hamelin (6 January)
As well as being one of today’s foremost pianists Marc-André Hamelin is also in the tradition of the golden age of pianist-composers. Born in Montreal, he began his piano studies at the age of 5. His father, a pharmacist by trade who was also an amateur pianist, introduced him to the repertoire of those pianist-composers and others before Marc went on to study at Montreal’s Ecole de Musique Vincent d’Indy, then at Temple University in Philadelphia. His repertoire is vast, ranging from the familiar pillars of the piano literature to the less well-known figures of those virtuoso pianist-composers such as Alkan, Godowsky, Sorabji, Henselt, Feinberg, Thalberg et al – music which requires a transcendental technique as well as the most cultured musicianship.
He is also a composer, and his works include a set of piano Études in all of the minor keys and a cycle of seven pieces called Con Intimissimo Sentimento. To report that his large discography for Hyperion extends from these pieces to transcriptions of songs by Charles Trenet, C.P.E Bach to Percy Grainger, Liszt to the Russian jazz composer Kapustin, Mozart to Roslavets, Chopin to Villa-Lobos, Schubert to Ives, Schumann to Ornstein is to give only a small flavour of his range. Haydn is well represented too, and the present writer cannot resist detecting a connection between Hamelin’s wit and sense of comic timing in this music to his love of cartoons. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts with his wife Cathy Fuller, who is a pianist and a broadcaster with WGBH, the city’s classical music radio station.