Five Things Friday – Marc-André Hamelin

If you live in Los Angeles, there is really only one classical music station that you tune to—the inimitable 91.5 KUSC. And when you grow up listening to KUSC, artist names quickly become familiar, even without your realizing it. For me, one of those names was the pianist Marc-André Hamelin. So you can imagine my anticipation when I heard he was coming to Ojai in June. However I realized that despite having heard his recordings many times, I actually knew very little about Hamelin. So, in preparation for his Ojai debut, we’ve found five things you may (or may not) know about Hamelin:

– Montreal-born Hamelin is an incredibly virtuosic pianist, known for his breadth of expression and astonishing technical ability. If you need proof, here’s a video of him performing Triple Etude d’Apres Chopin, where he plays three Chopin A minor etudes…simultaneously.

– In an interview with Ethan Iverson, Hamelin noted that the first recording he bought for himself was of Ives’ Concord Sonata when he was 13. It has since become something of a signature piece for him…and he’ll be playing it on Thursday night in Ojai.

– He is also a talented composer—his recording of his own compositions, Hamelin: Ètudes brought him his ninth Grammy Nomination and first prize from the German Record Critic’s Association

– He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Québec (National Order of Quebec).

– Hamelin has achieved the near-impossible: he has managed to make the Nokia ringtone almost bearable, with his very own Valse Irritation d’après Nokia.

Needless to say, we’re looking forward to meeting Hamelin and hearing him play in person. He will be performing throughout the Festival weekend, both solo and with his friend and long-time collaborator Music Director Leif Ove Andsnes, playing works by John Luther Adams, Ives, Berg, Bolcom, and Stravinsky. Click here to see his concerts and buy tickets to the 2012 Festival.

If you want to learn more about Hamelin, read Ethan Iverson’s excellent interview or visit his web site.