Marc-André Hamelin – Fauré: Nocturnes and Barcarolles (Hyperion)
“The thing about him is that he's so honest and real and natural,” pianist and radio host Cathy Fuller says. “He never thinks about how he comes across so much as how the music gets to the other person, and you can even sense that in the way he converses. And that's one of the things that really struck me about him.”
That’s what impressed Fuller when she first encountered pianist Marc-André Hamelin. He was on the other side of the microphone as she interviewed him for her classical radio program in Boston. That interview led to lunch, then long-distance phone calls and eventually marriage. And now, for the first time, Fuller , who is also an accomplished pianist, performs with Hamelin on his new recording. It features the complete nocturnes and barcarolles by Gabriel Fauré, as well as the piece they perform together, the delightful Dolly Suite, for piano four-hands.
Fuller: “I thought, ‘Playing with Marc-André Hamelin — oh, my God! I have to do scales with Marc. Forget it!’ But I remember, when I was studying the music, how much I loved being next to somebody. I think he made me better just by being next to him. But I really had to work at this. And it was he who asked me. I would never have asked to do this. And I was so touched that he had the faith and confidence in me to do this. And I really tried to rise to the occasion, but it was a ton of fun.
“This was the first time we really played together. And I have a really hard time with the idea of giving up the pedal. That was difficult. And so does he — don't you, Marc?”
Hamelin: “Oh, yes, absolutely. I was taking the bottom part in the duet that we were playing, and it's more logical for the bottom player to take the pedal. So, it takes two players who are really in sympathy with each other, you know? And we really worked at it. And the result really speaks for itself.”
Why did you want to record the barcarolles and nocturnes of Gabriel Fauré?
Hamelin: “To have all the nocturnes and barcarolles in one place was an especially attractive idea, I thought. And the more I delved into it, the more wonderful I thought it was. And you just go from one wonder to the next.”
Nocturnes are often a night piece and therefore something that's more subtle or subdued. However, these nocturnes by Fauré are not like that. Can you talk about the sense of drama that he creates in some of these pieces?
Hamelin: “Fauré’s publisher was mainly responsible for the titles given to his works upon publication, because he really didn't care much about what to call them. It's really what was expressed that was of prime importance to him.
“So a nocturne is not necessarily nocturnal in his outlook, because some of them get quite dramatic. I'm thinking of the last nocturne, No. 13, which has a very stormy and anguished middle section that really rises to a big fever pitch.”
If you were going to sit down and play one of those nocturnes right now, which one would you choose and why?
Hamelin: “One of them, to my mind, stands out above almost all the others. And that's No. 6. The special atmosphere that he creates has always been very, very special to me, perhaps more than any other of his piano works.
“Although if you put it on the CD with the nocturnes, the very beginning of the first nocturne is magical.”
Do you feel that way about the barcarolles as well? Is there one that stands out to you?
Hamelin: “The Third Barcarolle, which I learned when I was a teenager. I think I was maybe 16 or something like that, and I've always had a soft spot for it. And on a personal note, whenever I visited my mother, she asked me to play it because she just adored it.”
To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
Marc-André Hamelin – Faure: Nocturnes and Barcarolles (Amazon)
Marc-André Hamelin – Faure: Nocturnes and Barcarolles (Hyperion)
Marc-André Hamelin (official site)
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