WORKS: Chopin, Debussy, Gershwin, Hamelin, Haydn
PERFORMER: Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: EuroArts 2055788 Both discs: NTSC system; DD 5.1, dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format
Here are two exemplary documentary films. Each presents a short ‘portrait’ film, a complete recital and the bonus of the full interview conducted by Jan Schmidt-Garre, rigorously edited for the introductions.
Both subjects, captured at the open-minded Ruhr Piano Festival in Essen, are among the most interesting of today’s pianists, but Berezovsky takes the palm as a curious and magnetic personality.
Groomed as a virtuoso by his parents, he only fell in love with what he was playing, and began to explore the less obvious corners of the repertoire, thanks to the inspiration of a more recent teacher.
His maverick personality is nicely mirrored in footage showing him with Dafydd Llywelyn, Boulez pupil and composer of Supertramp hits, the third movement of whose Change of Plans Berezovsky is quite happy to mess around in a compelling improvisation.
He also has fun with the more outlandish of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations before probing the heart of the mystery. His Medtner reveals the composer is indeed Rachmaninov’s equal, as Svetlanov once claimed to me in interview. Hamelin in his documentary confirms Medtner as the ‘most comfortable’ of all composers for the pianist, the greatest of ‘genius craftsmen’.
More earnest in conversation, the Canadian has interesting things to say about the limitless nature of exploring the repertoire, up to and including the performance. His Debussy Preludes are mesmerising: the little masterclasses on ‘La puerta del vino’ and ‘Feux d’artifice’ are dazzlingly enacted on the concert platform.
His Haydn springs and gleams in the ornamentation, while the Chopin Third Sonata finds the total musician seeing through the torrents of notes to thematic and emotional truth. In addition to the official encores, the home movie of Hamelin’s own minute-long Ring Tone Waltz is genuinely witty.
The only shame is that Schmidt-Garre seems so uneasy as an interviewer, and even passes on his nervousness to the initially relaxed Berezovsky; but he clearly gets good results from these engaging talkers.