San Francisco Classical Voice: Marc-André Hamelin – Artistry With Sprezzatura

San Francisco Classical Voice
By Ken Iisaka

Marc-André Hamelin has been a regular visitor to San Francisco for some time. Yet, until Sunday’s concert as part of the San Francisco Symphony’s “Great Performers Series,” he had not given a solo recital in Davies Symphony Hall. With San Francisco’s biggest concert stage all to himself, he made a case for being one of the greatest artists of today.

Hamelin began with a steely and solemn reading of Bach’s Chaconne in D-Minor. Adhering faithfully to the score, he played the opening measures with his left hand only (an homage to another transcription of the same piece by Brahms, for left hand). His disciplined approach maintained the solemn character of the piece. Even as the variations flourished, at times more Busoni than Bach, the central chord progression remained clear. Hamelin worked hard to fill the large hall, and the effect was akin to being surrounded by organ pipes in all directions — fitting for a Bach transcription.

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