We meet Marc-André Hamelin in Berlin, not far from the Teldec studios where he has just recorded a virtuoso programme consisting of transcriptions of operas by Liszt and Thalberg coupled with the Hexameron variations. His ease and cordiality immediately establish a warm contact, and the conversation goes well in French on subjects of a richness at least in the image of the character. It was not the late hour, it could have lasted until the early morning.
The next day we meet the pianist again to conduct an in-depth interview, focusing on two directions: his learning of the piano and the rare repertoire he defends.
This first part of the interview is devoted to the learning years, an opportunity for the pianist to recall the memory of his teachers and to tell anecdotes with remarkable detail. Between Yvonne Hubert in Montreal, Harvey Wedeen in Philadelphia and Russell Sherman in Boston, not to mention his father, an amateur pianist who played a decisive role in his life, Marc-André Hamelin reviews the characters and highlights of this decisive period.
The musical illustrations accompanying these interviews were recorded at a later meeting in Paris on a 1926 Pleyel concert piano, model A (owned by our friend Christophe Labarde).
Alfred Cortot was a supreme interpreter of Chopin – he studied with the composer’s pupil Émile Descombes – and fortunately he left us many recordings made over the course of several decades.
Among his most significant contributions to recorded music are his stupendous accounts of Chopin’s Etudes, his expansive, creative interpretations taking these works well beyond the realm of technical studies to reveal their rich musical content.