To the uninitiated it is hard to describe the musical world of the American composer Frederic Rzewski. A pianist himself, Rzewski initially made a name for himself as a champion of the avant-garde, performing everything from Cage to Boulez. In the '70s his own music took a much more populist turn as his political beliefs drove him to find a much more approachable language, basically tonal and incorporating much quotation from popular music. It is music of this period that is recorded here.
Fête Galante, a 1999 release featuring soprano Karina Gauvin and pianist Marc-André Hamelin, won numerous awards, and the outstanding performances on this 2011 reissue confirm how well-deserved those honors were. Gauvin has an exceptional voice – clarion-bright, warm, confident, and agile, with a variegated palette of colors – and her effortlessly incisive interpretive skills give depth and life to everything she sings. The distinctiveness and character she brings to these songs show a terrific grasp of the genre of the mélodie, from the late 19th century songs by Fauré and the young Debussy to the mid-20th works by Poulenc, Honegger, and Émile Vuillermoz. The CD demonstrates her range with the zany comedy of Poulenc's "Paganini" followed immediately by the intensely poignant multi-layered sadness of the composer's profound "C." Throughout, Gauvin's tone is ravishingly pure and she soars gloriously in the more lyrical songs.
While some great pianists play the core works we've heard countless times, Marc Andre-Hamelin has an affinity for those lesser-heard gems. On his recording of Busoni's epic Piano Concerto, Op. 38, the pianist revealed abilities that couldn't be overshadowed by the complex composition at hand.
Chopin's two piano concertos have long been admired more as pianistic vehicles than as integrated works for piano and orchestra. But in his revelatory new recording, Krystian Zimerman suggests otherwise: The opening orchestral tuttis have so much more light, shade, orchestral color, and detail, you wonder if they've been rewritten. Every gesture, every instrumental solo is so specifically characterized that by the time the piano makes a dramatic entrance, the pieces have become operas without words.
Even though Marc-André Hamelin is world-renowned for his astonishing virtuosity and a massive repertoire of the most demanding piano works, including those of Scriabin, Godowsky, and Sorabji, he has startled many with his sudden turn toward the placid domain of Classical music. First came his critically acclaimed recordings of Franz Joseph Haydn's keyboard sonatas, which were surprise best-sellers for Hyperion, and here he offers a double-CD of the piano sonatas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with a handful of short pieces to round out the discs. Since Hamelin's fine reputation precedes him, suffice it to say that these are among the most meticulously played and wittily interpreted renditions of these pieces ever recorded. Even though Mozart's sonatas are tamer than the showpieces of pianistic derring-do normally associated with Hamelin, they are endlessly fascinating for their skillfully crafted details, subtle phrases, and elegant expressions. Since the issue isn't how Hamelin manages all the notes, but instead how he shapes them into such entertaining and moving performances, there is much food for thought in this album, and anyone who attentively follows his playing will find a deeper appreciation of Mozart. Highly recommended.
"These performances are notable for the blending of piano and strings into impeccably balanced textures. It’s an approach that’s better suited to the subtle Piano Quartet, a masterwork that owes much to classical models, than to the Piano Quintet. (…) These highly recommendable performances (…) join many other polished, modern accounts such as Takács/Hamelin and Mandelring/Le Guay that have been praised in these pages…" ~Fanfare
Instructional series in harmony with traditional instruction that specializes in teaching the aspiring pianist all of the important skills.