Marc-André Hamelin Makes History At Portland Piano International

Marc-André Hamelin

Marc-André Hamelin

Marc-André Hamelin, Canadian virtuoso pianist and composer, will be the first guest curator for Portland Piano International.

Beginning next season, the highly-acclaimed piano series Portland Piano International will begin using guest curators to oversee artistic concert programming for one season. After the departure of the organization’s most recent artistic director, its board decided to adopt a curatorial model for programming. Founding Artistic Director Harold Gray has returned to curate the current 2018/2019 SOLO season.

Along with his curatorial duties for the 2019/2020 SOLO season, Marc-André Hamelin will perform the first concert of that season.

How it happened

Portland Piano International Executive Director Ellen Bergstone Wasil and Board Chair Maryellen McCulloch originally met with Hamelin while at the 15th Van Cliburn Competition in 2017, and could not be happier to welcome him as the next guest curator.

“We are incredibly honored to have Marc-André Hamelin as our first guest curator for our SOLO Series!” McCulloch said. “As a musician of the highest caliber, he is setting a high bar for future guest curators. We look forward to learning about his selections for the other five artists who will perform next season.”

“When the Board decided to engage a guest curator, the first person I imagined filling the new role was Marc-André Hamelin. I was thrilled when he said ‘yes’ to our request,” Bergstone Wasil explained. “Mr. Hamelin is not only a superb pianist, he also composes and introduces audiences to classical pieces that have nearly been forgotten. We are so fortunate to be working with him.”

Marc-André Hamelin, pianist and composer

Born in Montreal, Quebec, Hamelin began his piano studies at the age of five. His father introduced him to the works of Alkan, Godowsky, and Sorabji when he was still young. Hamelin studied at the École de musique Vincent-d'Indy in Montreal and then at Temple University in Philadelphia.

He has a discography of more than 60 recordings exclusively for Hyperion Records that include concertos and works for solo piano by such composers as Alkan, Godowsky, and Medtner, as well as brilliantly received performances of Brahms, Chopin, Liszt, Schumann and Shostakovich. His most recent releases are a disc of Schubert’s Piano Sonata in B-flat Major and Four Impromptus, a landmark disc of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Concerto for Two Pianos with Leif Ove Andsnes, Morton Feldman’s For Bunita Marcus, and Medtner’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Rachmaninovs Piano Concerto No. 3 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Jurowski.

Although primarily a performer, Hamelin has composed music throughout his career; the majority of his works are published by Edition Peters. In 2017, he was a distinguished member of the jury of the 15th Van Cliburn Competition, where each of the 30 competitors in the preliminary round were required to perform Hamelin’s “Toccata on L’Homme armé”. This marked the first time the composer of the commissioned work was also a member of the jury.

“I can think of few experiences as transformative and magical as an evening spent listening to a great pianist. And I am constantly astonished by the diversity of approach and depth of imagination that define the artists of our time. It’s a thrill to have been asked to curate the 2019/2020 season of Portland Piano International,” Hamelin said. “Each of this season’s pianists has an utterly unique artistic voice, and all of them have touched me deeply with their generosity of spirit and stirring performances. PPI has brought brilliant music-making to Portland year after year, and this season will be no exception. I promise everyone an outstanding pianistic feast!”

As Hamelin begins his curatorial year, Portland Piano International will celebrate its 42nd season (currently in its 41st). Hamelin comes via a storied lineage as most of the world’s top pianists have played on Portland’s series: Lang Lang, Mitsuko Uchida, Peter Serkin, Stephen Hough, Murray Perahia, Valentina Lisitsa, Simone Dinnerstein, Emmanuel Ax, and many more. View their intriguing program archive dating back to 1978.

It’s certain that Hamelin’s artistic stamp in Portland will have piano fans relishing near and far.