Marc-André Hamelin (piano), Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Litton (conductor)
Hyperion’s Record of the Month for August features Marc-André Hamelin and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra under Andrew Litton in a compelling account of Brahms’s huge Piano Concerto No 2. This work blends the principles of symphony and concerto in a manner that invokes chamber music, while also representing the culmination of everything that Brahms had learned as a lifelong connoisseur of pianistic technique. Cast in four large movements, this concerto can be seen as a kind of pianistic autobiography, from the young virtuoso, through the D minor anguish of the scherzo and the self-communing chamber-like slow movement, to the Hungarian rhythms of the more ebullient song-and-dance finale. The Four Piano Pieces Op 119 written in the composer’s final years—three ravishingly inward and autumnal Intermezzi offset by a virile and heroic Rhapsodie—complete this rounded portrait of the composer.
Marc-André Hamelin’s pianistic authority and, when required, thrilling virtuosity are underpinned by a deep understanding of this epic work. He is magnificently partnered by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Andrew Litton, and his intimate dialogue with the solo cello in the slow movement is a high-point of this richly fulfilling interpretation. Marc-André’s musicianship is further revealed in his poignant and searching performance of the four late solo pieces. For lovers of this composer, and of great piano-playing, this is essential listening.