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Marc-André Hamelin (Piano)

Born: September 5, 1961 - Montreal, Canada

The French-Canadian pianist and composer, Marc-André Hamelin, began his piano studies at the age of 5 and was 9 years old when he won the top prize in a Canadian music competition. His father, a pharmacist by trade who was also a keen pianist, introduced him to the works of Charles-Valentin Alkan, Leopold Godowsky and Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji when he was still very young. From the age of 9, he studied at the Ecole Vincent d'Indy in Montréal Yvonne Hubert and Sister Rita de la Croix, and then at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with Harvey D. Wedeen and Russell Sherman. A popular rumour is that he learned K.S. Sorabji's Opus Clavicembalisticum at the age of 17; in fact, although he did study this work at that time, he did not learn it completely. He was the page turner for Geoffrey Douglas Madge in a performance of this piece in Montréal in 1984.

In 1982 Marc-André Hamelin came first in the International Stepping Stones of the Canadian Music Competitions and won first prize at the International Piano Competition in Pretoria, South Africa. In 1985 he was awarded first prize at Carnegie Hall's International Competition of American Music, which entailed numerous engagements in the USA with well-known orchestras, an important series of recitals (including at Carnegie Hall), and a recording contract with New World Records.

Well established in both North America and Europe, Marc-André Hamelin has given recitals in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Berlin, Birmingham, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Mexico City, Milan, Montreal, Moscow, New York, Ottawa, Paris, Philadelphia, Québec, San Juan Puerto Rico, De Doelen Rotterdam, Toronto, Vienna, Washington and Warsaw. Festival appearances have included Bad Kissingen, Belfast, Cervantino, La Grange de Meslay, Husum Piano Rarities, Lanaudière, Ravinia, La Roque díAnthéron, Ruhr Piano, Scotia (Halifax), Singapore Piano, Snape Maltings Proms, Turku and Ottawa Strings of the Future, as well as the Chopin Festivals of Bagatelles (Paris), Duszniki and Valldemossa. Following the success of his 1994 Wigmore Hall series Virtuoso Romantics, Marc-André Hamelin appears regularly in both the Wigmore Hall Master-concert Series and the International Piano Series at Londonís South Bank Centre. He plays annually in the Herkules-Saal in Munich and has given a series of six recitals in Tokyo entitled 200 Years of Pianism with Marc-André Hamelin. He performed at Lincoln Center in New York with the Manhattan Philharmonic Orchestra and the Riverside Symphony Orchestra, in Ottawa with the NACO, and with the symphony orchestras of several major centres including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Quebec City, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, and Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1987 he was a soloist with the MSO during its European tour. The Canada Council awarded him the Sylva Gelber Foundation Award in 1987 and the Virginia P. Moore Prize in 1989.

Marc-André Hamelin formed a duo with cellist Sophie Rolland in 1989; in 1991 they performed the complete works of L.v. Beethoven in Montreal, London, and New York. Hamelin also accompanied the soprano Karina Gauvin, and regularly performed a program of cabaret music with his wife, the US soprano Jody Karin Applebaum, which they also recorded.

Marc-André Hamelin Hamelin is internationally renowned for his effortless musical virtuosity and refined pianism - many regard him as the supreme technician of the instrument. Perhaps best known for his attention to lesser-known composers especially of the late 19th and early 20th century (Leo Ornstein, Nikolai Roslavets, Georgy Catoire, Charles Ives), and for performing difficult works by pianist-composers such as Leopold Godowsky, Charles-Valentin Alkan and Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, he is equally at home with the standard repertoire. His recitals were characterized by a determination to introduce little-known repertoire from all periods, although he was equally adept at the standard concerto repertoire. In addition, he premiered many works by Canadian and USA composers. He made his London debut in 1992 and returned often to Wigmore Hall. He performed, as soloist and with orchestras, in most major North American and European cities as well as in Japan, Malaysia, Australia, and Mexico, and was a regular guest in Munich and at the Lanaudière and other Canadian and European festivals. A member of Piano Six, Hamelin also toured to smaller Canadian centres.

Marc-André began composing for the piano at age 19; he later recorded several of his own études. He also wrote difficult arrangements of piano works by Franz Liszt and Chopin. Among his works is a projected set of 12 piano études in minor keys, of which six are completed. The twelfth in the cycle, a Prelude and Fugue, has been published by Doberman-Yppan; a cycle of seven pieces, called Con Intimissimo Sentimento, was published (with a recording by Hamelin) by Ongaku No Tomo Sha; and a transcription of Zequinha de Abreu's Tico-Tico No Fuba has been published by Schott Music. Although the majority of his compositions are for piano solo, he has also written three pieces for player-piano, and several works for other forces, including Three Fanfares for three trumpets, published by Presser. His other works are distributed by the Sorabji Archive.

Marc-André Hamelin recorded around 40 discs by 2003, most with the Hyperion label. Of the lesser-known composers whose works he championed, he focused particularly on Leopold Godowsky and Charles-Valentin Alkan. A four-time Juno award winner (1996-1998 and 2003), Hamelin performed on the Grammy telecast in 2001. Several of his recordings were nominated for Grammy awards. His recording L. Godowsky's Complete Studies on Chopin's Etudes (Hyperion) received the 2000 Gramophone Instrumental Award and several critics' choice awards. In 1991 he recorded Eckhardt-Gramatté's Six Piano Sonatas (Altarus). He has devoted CD's to solo piano music of Albeniz, C.V. Alkan, G. Catoire, Sophie Eckhardt-Grammaté, L. Godowsky, Grainger, Haydn, Nikolai Kapustin, F. Liszt, Medtner, Ornstein, Max Reger, Roslavets, Schumann, Scriabin, K.S. Sorabji, Szymanowski and Heitor Villa-Lobos, and including many other composers on other recordings. He has also recorded several piano concerti, and a number of discs of chamber music and as an accompanist. His latest recording is a 2-CD set with the Haydn piano sonatas for the Hyperion label.

Referred to as a 'powerful, poetic young Canadian pianist' by Andrew Porter in The New Yorker (May 22, 1989), Marc-André Hamelin was admired around the world for his formidably virtuosic technique and vast repertoire. In 2003 he has been made an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Chevalier de l'Ordre national du Québec (National Order of Quebec). He was also the subject of the book The Composer-Pianists: Hamelin and The Eight. As of 2003 Hamelin lived in Philadelphia, returning regularly to Canada to perform. In 2004 he received the international record award in Cannes.

Source: The CanadiEncyclopedia © 2007 Historica Foundation of Canada (Authors: Claire Métras, Betty Nygaard King); Wikipedia Website; Most photos by Tina Foster
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (April 2007)

Marc-André Hamelin: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works

Links to other Sites

Artist Page - Marc-André Hamelin (Hyperion)
Marc-André Hamelin Profile (Colbert Artists)
GIA Artists: Marc André Hamelin - Biography
WFU | Secrest Artists Series | Marc-André Hamelin
Bio for Marc-André Hamelin (Pittsburgh Symphony)
Marc-André Hamelin - Beyond Virtuosity (LSM)

Marc-André Hamelin (World Concert Artist Directory)
Hamelin, Marc-André (The Canadian Encyclopedia)
Marc-André Hamelin (AMG)
Marc-André Hamelin (Wikipedia)
Marc-Andre Hamelin Archive of Music Related info
Marc-Andre Hamelin - discography


Roberge, Marc-André: 'Marc-André Hamelin, vainqueur à New York,' Sonances, vol 5, Jan 1986
Robert, Véronique: 'Marc-André Hamelin: sortir des sentiers battus,' Montreal La Presse, July 26, 1986
Gingras, Claude: 'Il existe chez moi un certain désir d'être le premier à faire connaître certaines choses,' ibid, December 31, 1988
Snider, Roxanne: "Master of the obscure," Opus, summer 2000
Ross, Alex. "Extreme piano," The New Yorker, December 18, 2000
Siblin, Eric: "Uncommon virtuoso," Saturday Night, April 28, 2001
Rimm, Robert: The Composer-Pianists: Hamelin and The Eight (Portland, Oregon 2002)

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