Souvenir de Paganini Liszt
Franz Schuberts Märsche für das Pianoforte übertragen
Six Grandes Etudes de Paganini Schubert
Sonata in A, D664
Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
Marc-André Hamelin Wigmore Hall (31 October)
Thursday, October 31, 2002 Wigmore Hall, London
Reviewed by Peter Grahame Woolf
Marc-André Hamelin seemed ill at ease in the first half of his recital. Schuberts sonata was an odd choice for a pianist whose consummate virtuosity makes him peerless in the most demanding late-19th and early-20th-century repertoire. He over-pedalled, pulled it around with dynamic hairpins and too much rubato, and generally showed himself out of sympathy with its lyrical simplicity. My ideal account is Gilbert Schuchter playing a Bösendorfer on Tudor CD 744.
Liszts transcriptions of Schubert marches are inflated grotesqueries; I doubted whether much could be done with them. Liszt combines seven of Schuberts originals to make three new ones, with many liberties and extravagant decorations. He sets a funeral march against an anticipation of his transcription of the most famous Wedding March (from Mendelssohns A Midsummer Nights Dream). I found the whole thing an intolerable farrago, not helped by Hamelins uncharacteristic splashes. I am sure his recording (Hyperion CDA67370) is error-free and might even belie my doubts.
It was a different pianist who returned after the interval, poised and relaxed in Chopins charming Souvenir de Paganini. Following, and delivered with all the clarity and poise one expects of Hamelin, were Liszts Paganini Etudes including the familiar La Campanella and La Chasse which concludes with a transcription of ten of Paganinis variations on the famous tune of his solo violin Caprice No.24 (the one that has been quarried by so many composers since). Liszt adds a variation of his own to lead into a thunderous coda, which it was here.