Thursday, March 31, 2022

Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

Guest Reviewer, Susan Stempleski

For this Carnegie Hall recital, Marc-André Hamelin replaced Sir András Schiff,

The program opened with a Sonata by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, a composer much explored by Hamelin (see link below). His delight in performing the piece was immediately obvious and highly infectious. His brilliant treatment vividly illustrated the modern piano’s ability to bring to life the complex demands of this mid-eighteenth-century music as he traversed its frequent changes in mood and timbre to bring out all the elegance and charm in the sometimes surprisingly modern-sounding composition. The piece is cast in fast-slow-fast movement form and sounded astonishingly original, especially in the vibrant and energetic outer movements, generously peppered with flourishes and wit.

Next came an elegant and fresh account of one of Beethoven’s earliest works for piano, the Sonata in C, Opus 2/3. Hamelin’s sparkling and characterful interpretation of this sunny piece was most memorable for his exceptionally lean and briskly paced traversal of the first movement and rapturous account of the slow one.

The second half of the recital was devoted to the mighty ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata. Hamelin was at his most inspired, drawing us into the composer’s world in a magisterial, lyrical and thoughtful reading of extraordinary integrity. The first movement had remarkable verve and impetus, sustained throughout as the tension gradually increased. After a spontaneous and sparkling Scherzo, the great, searching Adagio was magnificently voiced and flowing. Nothing was rushed and there was an impressive sense of repose as each calmly paced bar was beautifully shaped through articulation and dynamics. In the notorious Finale fugue, taken at a bustling pace, Hamelin held back just enough to illuminate the complex streams of counterpoint. His compelling performance came off as totally satisfying and thrilling, leaving one with the impression that there is no other way of playing this daunting and invigorating work.

As an encore the pianist offered a delicately rendered account of ‘The Gardens of Buitenzorg’ from Leopold Godowsky’s Java Suite.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
‘Württemberg’ Sonata No.2 in A-flat, Wq49, H31
Piano Sonata No.3 in C, Opus 2/3
Piano Sonata No.29 in B-flat, Op.106 (Hammerklavier)