Marc-André Hamelin - In a state of Jazz

It’s not jazz as we know it but Hamelin spins us into a glittering wonderland

Author: 
Bryce Morrison

Marc-André Hamelin - In a state of Jazz

  • Play Piano Play, Exercise No 1 (Moderato)
  • Sonata for Piano No 2
  • Play Piano Play, Exercise No 4 (Allegro ma non troppo)
  • Sonate en état de jazz
  • Play Piano Play, Exercise No 5 (Moderato, poco mosso)
  • Prelude and Fugue
  • (6) Arrangements of Song sung by Charles Trenet
  • Jazz Sonata

“In a State of Jazz” presents a form of fusion music where the influence of jazz is grafted onto classical forms. So although Gulda, Kapustin and Weissenberg whirl us into heady jazz idioms, their work is notated rather than improvised. As Marc-André Hamelin tells us in the opening sentence of his brilliant accompanying essay, “there is no jazz on this recording”.

Again, all three composers, temporarily stifled by classical norms and mores, sought a liberation that would send them soaring into what would once be considered alien territory. Weissenberg, for example, claims his Sonata in a State of Jazz is fuelled by “intoxication, contamination and madness” while “written in a state of indisputable sobriety”. Gulda (“Dead Eye Fred” to his jazz colleagues), too, loved to escape from the confines of Carnegie Hall to the Birdland club in New York, jamming away into the small hours and claiming that he had left the past to join the vibrant living present and future. All this and much more makes for music that is arguably more brittle and sophisticated than uplifting, but it is played with such astounding agility and aplomb that you end up mesmerised by virtually every bar. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that no other pianist could approach Hamelin in such music. Notes pour and cascade like diamonds from his fingers and he has an inborn flair for the music’s wild, free-wheeling melodies and rhythms, for its glittering whimsy and caprice.

Doubting Thomases should try the first movement of Kapustin’s Second Sonata for crazed virtuoso exuberance and Trenet’s “Coin de rue” (cunningly arranged by Weissenberg) for teasing nostalgia. Superbly presented and recorded, this is a special addition to Hamelin’s towering and unique discography.

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