Beethoven, Chopin, Alkan, Busoni, Medtner

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COMPOSERS: Alkan,Beethoven,Busoni,Chopin,Medtner
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Hamelin Live at Wigmore Hall
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 3 (trans. Alkan); Piano Concerto No. 1 (trans. Balakirev); Trois Grandes Etudes, Op. 76; Sonatina No. 6; Danza festiva, Op. 38/3
PERFORMER: Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
This disc is taken from the Virtuoso Romantics series of concerts given by Marc-Andre Hamelin at the Wigmore Hall last year, and provides a thrilling insight into a world in which it seemed that the piano was capable of anything. The collection kicks off, appropriately, with Alkan’s transcription of the first movement of Beethoven’s Third piano concerto – more than anyone, it was Beethoven who liberated the piano from the constraints of Classicism. Alkan pays homage in his extrordinary cadenza, in which Beethoven’s themes are refracted through shimmering walls of sound and heard, audaciously, against the finale of the Fifth Symphony. Here, homage is not stuffy reverence but the release of imaginative energy; virtuosity is no mere showmanship but the medium through which the pianist, as the artist, is able to triumph heroically against the odds, That heroism is most breath-taking in Alkan’s Trois Grandes Etudes, in which the left and right hands take a movement each (one would hardly guess from listening) to be rreunited in a blistering mouvement perpetuel. Hamelin plays with fearless panache, but is temder as well as fierce (in Balakirev’s transcription of the Romanza from Chopin’s first Piano Concerto, for example), and the excitement of the concerts is brilliantly captured. William Humphreys-Jones