Pianist Marc-André Hamelin

Marc-André Hamelin, Piano

Martin Theatre
Thursday, July 23, 2009
4:30 PM
Donor Gates Open
5:00 PM
Public Gates Open
8:00 PM
Concert Starts
Reserved $40/$25
Lawn $10


Sonata in E-flat Major, Hob. XVI:49
    Adagio cantabile
    Finale: Tempo di Menuet

Cipressi (Ricordando i cipressi d’Usigliano di Lari), Op. 17 *

Six Arrangements of Songs Sung by Charles Trenet *
(transcribed by Marc-André Hamelin)
    Coin de rue
    Vous oubliez votre cheval
    En avri, à Paris
    Vous qui passez sans me voir


Two Selections from Twelve Etudes in Minor Keys
    No. 8: Erlkönig (after Goethe) *
    No. 7: For the Left Hand Alone (after Tchaikovsky) *

Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58
    Allegro maestoso
    Scherzo: Molto vivace
    Finale: Presto non tanto

About The Artist


Pianist Marc-André Hamelin’s recent notable appearances include a series of dates at New York City’s Lincoln Center—in recital and with orchestra for Mostly Mozart, in recital for the “Great Performers” series, in chamber concerts with Midori and playing Haydn and Mozart concertos with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. In recent seasons he has made recital appearances throughout the United States and has appeared with the major orchestras of Boston, Montreal, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Saint Louis, San Francisco and Seattle, among others. Last March the Pro Musica Society of Montreal marked its 60th anniversary season celebrating The Art of Marc-André Hamelin with a week of concerts, featuring Hamelin in chamber music, a solo recital and Beethoven and Haydn concertos. Throughout the 2008-09 season he toured with the Takács String Quartet, performing the Schumann Piano Quintet and recording it for Hyperion Records. In fall 2008 Hamelin embarked on a tour of concerts with the orchestras of Singapore, Malaysia and Melbourne, finishing with recitals in Hong Kong. Under exclusive contract with Hyperion Records, he has received eight Grammy nominations, including a 2009 nomination for Marc-André Hamelin in a State of Jazz. Having recorded more than 35 CDs, Hamelin recently released Chopin Sonatas Nos. 2 & 3, Two Nocturnes, Berceuse-Barcarolle, which has received extraordinary critical and popular acclaim. He was recently presented with a lifetime achievement prize by the German Record Critic’s Award, was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2003 and a Chevalier de l’Ordre du Québec in 2004 and is a member of the Royal Society of Canada. Tonight marks Marc-André Hamelin’s fourth appearance at Ravinia Festival, where he debuted in 1998.

Program Notes

JOSEPH HAYDN (1732-1809)

Sonata in E-flat Major, Hob. XVI:49

Two women-acquaintances of Haydn figure in the background of his Sonata in E-flat Major, Hob. XVI:49. First there was Maria Anna Gerlischek (or Nanette Jerlischek), the wealthy land-owning housekeeper for Prince Esterházy, Haydn’s employer. Gerlischek married court violinist Johann Tost, to whom the composer dedicated his Op. 54/55 and Op. 64 string quartets. Haydn respectfully inscribed his piano sonata to Gerlischek on June 1, 1790. He performed this work on a new fortepiano before Gerlischek and the prince on June 24, receiving a gold tobacco box from the lady.

The actual inspiration behind this sonata, though, was Maria Anna von Genzinger, one of the composer’s most beloved friends. Haydn had composed two of the sonata’s three movements for her in 1789, a secret he desperately wanted to hide from Gerlischek. To Genzinger he wrote on June 20: “This sonata was destined for Your Grace a year ago, and only the Adagio is quite new, and I especially recommend this movement to your attention, for it contains many things which I shall analyze for Your Grace when the time comes; it is rather difficult but full of feeling . . . N.B. Mademoiselle Nanette must know nothing of the fact that this sonata was already half completed, for otherwise she might get the wrong impression of me, and this might be disadvantageous for me, since I must be very careful not to lose her favor.”

Haydn personalized this music for Genzinger, accommodating its technique (hand-crossing, for example) to the small span of her hands. Furthermore he suggested that her husband purchase a fortepiano by Wenzel Schanz, a Viennese builder, to “produce twice the effect.” Extended Alberti bass accompaniments, rapid scale passages and finger-twisting melodic patterns in the Allegro would have provided a stiff test for Frau Genzinger’s abilities. The newly composed Adagio cantabile, which Haydn unfailingly singled out in his letters, contains several affective harmonic turns, particularly an unexpected shift from major to minor in the first section and a tumultuous minor-key theme at the center of the movement. The dance-like Finale, playfully building a conflict between duplet and triplet rhythms, provides a delightful conclusion.


Cipressi (Ricordando i cipressi d’Usigliano di Lari), Op. 17

A native of Florence, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco studied at the local conservatory, where his greatest influence came from Ildebrando Pizzetti, a composer often mentioned for his pursuit of a purified, “classical” approach to opera. Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s abundant imagination soon accounted for an enormous works catalogue that attracted considerable attention from another influential figure in Italian music, Alfredo Casella. Many works during this period of rising international prominence also reflected a fascination with the “impressionist” style of Maurice Ravel.

Castelnuovo-Tedesco fled Italy in 1939 in the face of rising anti-Semitism—and the subsequent ban on performances of his music—making his home first in New York State, then in Los Angeles. Hollywood film studios became his principal employers during the next decade and a half, commissioning such scores as And Then There Were None. Numerous concert works also date from the Hollywood years, including (as affirmation of his Jewish heritage) a handful of Biblical oratorios. In 1946 Castelnuovo-Tedesco became a citizen of the United States. For years he taught at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music (renamed California Institute of the Arts), where his students included Jerry Goldsmith, Henry Mancini, André Previn and John Williams.

Memories of the cypress trees in the small Tuscan town of Usigliano di Lari inspired the solo-piano piece Cipressi, Op. 17, which Castelnuovo-Tedesco wrote in 1960 and subsequently transcribed for orchestra. The composer spent many contented summers in Usigliano at the Villa Forti with his wife, Clara Forti, whose family owned the estate.


Six Arrangements of Songs Sung by Charles Trenet

(transcribed by Marc-André Hamelin)

French singer and songwriter Charles Trenet (1913-2001) sustained an influential career from the late 1930s until his death six decades later. His poetic, often playful lyrics united with a satiny lyricism in a style that transcended generational changes in musical taste. In his early years living in the southwestern part of France, Trenet found personal expression as much in visual arts as in music. After a short time studying art in Berlin, Trenet moved to Paris, where he eventually formed a duo called “Charles and Johnny” with Swiss pianist Johnny Hess. The duo recorded albums, performed in clubs and broadcast via radio until 1936, when Trenet was called into compulsory military service.

Trenet launched his solo career the following year with Je chante/Fleur bleue, his first disc for Columbia Records. France’s entry into World War II brought further military service, during which Trenet entertained both German officers and French prisoners, earning the nickname Le fou chantant (“The Singing Madman”). The Allied command used the refrain from his song “Verlaine” to signal the French underground movement of the imminent invasion of Normandy in June 1944.

Worn by the war in Europe, Trenet moved to the United States for six years, befriending many musicians and Hollywood stars, such as Charlie Chaplin. Trenet made his triumphant return to Paris’s Théâtre de l’Étoile on September 14, 1951. Though he “retired” on several occasions, friends and devotees convinced Trenet to continue singing and writing. He released his final album in 1999, a collection of 14 new compositions entitled Les poètes descendent dans la rue (“The Poets Take to the Street”). 

Alexis Weissenberg, a French pianist of Bulgarian birth, recorded six compact improvisations on Charles Trenet songs under an assumed name (“Mr. Nobody”) in the 1950s. Marc-André Hamelin has faithfully transcribed these improvisations from the original 45-rpm records, Mr. Nobody Plays Trenet.


Two Selections from Twelve Etudes in Minor Keys

Marc-André Hamelin has added his name to the extensive list of pianist-composers who have designed technical studies (“études”) for keyboard, familiar names such as Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, Franz Liszt, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Robert Schumann. Add to that catalogue less-familiar composers like Charles Valentin Alkan, Felix Blumenfeld, William Bolcom, Leopold Godowsky, Nicolai Kapustin, Alexander Michalowski, Moritz Moszkowski and Nikolai Roslavets, and one gains a broad cross-section of Hamelin’s performance repertoire and discography.

Inspired by Alkan’s Twelve Etudes in All the Minor Keys, Op. 39, and deriving style traits from other celebrated composers, Hamelin commenced his own set of one dozen minor-key studies—each dedicated to a fellow musician—in 1984. Hamelin has since completed 11 keyboard studies, several of which he has withdrawn from the public.


Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58

Although his health steadily deteriorated in the last decade of his life, Chopin experienced a temporary physical revitalization in 1844. A few months after the death of his father, Chopin received a visit by his favorite sister, Ludwika, whom he had not seen in 15 years, and her husband. Elated but somewhat exhausted by the stay in Paris, Chopin and his sister left for Nohant, the manor of novelist George Sand (pen name of the Baroness Aurore Dudevant).

The secluded setting afforded Chopin a much-needed rest, and his strength gradually returned. Unfortunately his musical imagination remained dormant. George Sand wrote that he dabbled in “quite a little baggage of new compositions, saying as usual that he cannot seem to write anything that isn’t detestable and miserable . . . the funniest thing is that he says this in perfectly good faith.” Chopin completed only one composition in 1844, his Piano Sonata No. 3. Chopin dedicated this, the last of his piano sonatas, to the Countess E. de Perthuis, whose husband was an advisor to King Louis Philippe of France. Three different publishers in Paris, London and Leipzig issued the score simultaneously the subsequent year.

The majestic opening movement in B minor is an unusual sonata form without a true recapitulation of the noble first theme. Instead, the concluding section begins with a restatement of the sustained, almost Schumannesque contrasting idea. The Scherzo, set in the key of E-flat major, begins like an impromptu, spinning out long treble lines. Motion slows in the middle for a chordal theme. The B-major Largo contains two principal ideas: the first a singing melody matched with a somewhat disjunct accompaniment, and the second a tranquil, dreamy theme. The final movement, returning to B minor, is a rondo cast in an agitated, solemn mold.

—Program notes © Todd E. Sullivan 2009

Park Details

Meet pianist Marc André Hamelin after his performance for a signing outside Ravinia Gifts, located in front of the Dining Pavilion.

Signings are at the discretion of the artist and are subject to change. Purchase of recorded merchandise does not guarantee signature.