Chatting with Marc-André Hamelin

A few weeks ago we collected questions to ask Marc-André Hamelin…and he’s just responded. Here’s what he said:

A few weeks ago we collected questions to ask Marc-André Hamelin. He’s just gotten back to us, answering questions about working with Leif Ove Andsnes, favorite pianists, and desert islands. Here’s what he said:


When you and Leif Ove Andsnes perform works for four hands, how do you decide who plays which part?

It’s only happened for two pieces so far, so there’s no great tradition yet! If one of us expresses a preference, the other respects it; that’s all there really is to it. Incidentally, we’ve only played 2-piano pieces so far — nothing on just one piano.


How do you decide the balance between solo, chamber, and orchestral appearances? Do you have a preference? What are the attractions of each?

It all depends on what concert offers come my way. I tend to take all I can, whether solo, chamber or orchestral, provided my schedule doesn’t get overcrowded; beyond a certain number of concerts, the quality of what I do is bound to start to suffer.


You have played pretty much everything…is there anything left, or will you turn to composition full-time?

I find this question extremely amusing! If one could play literally everything ever written for the piano, it would take at least twenty lifetimes! It’s not generally appreciated just how much there really is. True, a lot of it is forgettable or out of fashion, but there’s still many good things out there waiting to be heard.

As far as composition, it’s a necessary thing for me, and I enjoy it tremendously, but my concert activity will always be my main priority.


Desert island music question! What are the five recordings you’d want if you were actually stranded on an island? (box sets don’t count).

The more CDs and LPs you have (and yes, I still collect LPs) the more it would be impossible to make a choice! Also, I’d be afraid that if I took a small number of records to a desert island, I’d get sick of them, and that would be unfortunate…


Do you have any favorite pianists among the legendary figures of the past (or present)?  Any favorite recordings or concert experiences?

When I was little, my father played a lot of the Golden Age pianists’ recordings — those were his favorites by far, so naturally I got to know and love them very much. I liked a lot of them — hard to pick one. Ignaz Friedman and Josef Hofmann, perhaps. As far as now, people like Freire, Lupu, Uchida, Ax, Andsnes and Zimerman…well, the world would be much poorer without them.

Two of the concerts that particularly affected me (in a positive way!) were Shura Cherkassky’s two Montréal appearances back in the late 70s, when I was an impressionable youth.


If you weren’t playing piano, you’d be….

A master of ‘air chess’!  No, seriously…I have a certain aptitude for languages (even though I only speak two) so maybe a linguist?


Thanks to everyone who sent in their questions, and a big thank you to Marc-André – we can’t wait to see you in June! If you’re interested in seeing Marc-André Hamelin perform at the 65th Ojai Music Festival, click here for a program schedule.