AN MCO CONCERT WITH PIANIST MARC-ANDRÉ HAMELIN is unlike any other. Before the show, the anticipation that builds until Hamelin appears is electric. He mounts the stage and is welcomed rock star style. Then, the real excitement begins.

• Please note that this concert is in-person only
• Buy 7.30pm May 23rd in-person ticket | $36 Adult | $34 Senior | $15 Under-30

Hamelin began to play the piano at the age of five, and by the age of nine had already won top prize in the Canadian Music Competition. Today, he’s touted as one of the world’s greatest living pianists. In the words of famous music critic Alex Ross, his hands are “among the wonders of the musical world” (The New Yorker).

To our great fortune, he’s been playing with the MCO regularly since 1991 — with a pause of four years since his last performance which we know has left audiences impatient for his smashing return. At this concert the master performs Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9. Alfred Brendel has called it “one of the greatest wonders of the world,” while Alfred Einstein hailed it as “Mozart’s Eroica.”

Wonder upon wonder. We’ll see you at the concert. 😀

The concert begins at 7.30pm on Tuesday, May 23rd, in Crescent Arts Centre / Crescent Fort Rouge United Church, 525 Wardlaw Avenue. There will be no intermission for this concert. Casual tickets will be available 10 August 2022 here and on MCO’s Ticketline at 204-783-7377.

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Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Crescent Arts Centre / Crescent Fort Rouge United Church
7.30pm, Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Marc-André Hamelin, piano

Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky
String Sextet in D Minor, Op. 70, ‘Souvenir of Florence’

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat Major, K. 271, ‘Jeunehomme’

Marc-André Hamelin

Season sponsor / CN
Music Director sponsor / Neil & Elaine Margolis
Concertmaster sponsor / Raymond Hebért
Concertmaster sponsor / Maggie Keller, in memory of Dr. Robert Keller
Piano sponsor / Sandi & Ron Mielitz
Volunteer sponsor / MB Liquor Mart
Media sponsors / Classic 107, Golden West Radio & Winnipeg Free Press

NEW! View our entire house program online!

Marc-André Hamelin

“A performer of near-superhuman technical prowess” (New York Times), pianist Marc-André Hamelin is known worldwide for his unrivaled blend of consummate musicianship and brilliant technique in the great works of the established repertoire, as well as for his intrepid exploration of the rarities of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. He regularly performs around the globe with the leading orchestras and conductors of our time, and gives recitals at major concert venues and festivals worldwide.

During the 2021/22 season, Mr. Hamelin premiered a new piano concerto by Michael Gandolfi with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Robert Spano commissioned by Paul and Linnea Bert to commemorate Spano’s 20 years as musical director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He also appeared with the Dresden Philharmonic and Marek Janowski, and gave performances of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Bremen Philharmonic (with which he also performed Brahms’s First Piano Concerto), and orchestras across North America. A highlight of the season included duo recitals with Leif Ove Andsnes at Wigmore Hall, Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw, Bozar Brussels, Vienna Konzerthaus, and in San Sebastian, Spain, with additional recital appearances in Berlin, Munich, Santa Fe, New York, Edmonton, and London.

In the summer of 2021, Mr. Hamelin performed all five Beethoven concertos over two evenings with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal at the Festival de Lanaudière. Mr. Hamelin is an exclusive recording artist for Hyperion Records, where his discography spans more than 70 albums, with notable recordings of a broad range of solo, orchestral, and chamber repertoire. The label recently released a two-disc set of C. P. E. Bach’s sonatas and rondos that received wide critical acclaim; in June, Hyperion released the two-disc set of William Bolcom’s The Complete Rags.

Mr. Hamelin has composed music throughout his career, with nearly 30 compositions to his name. The majority of those works—including the Etudes and Toccata on L’homme armé, commissioned by the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition—are published by Edition Peters. His other most recent work, Suite à l’ancienne, was premiered in February 2021 by pianist Rachel Naomi Kudo with funding from her Gilmore Young Artist Award.

Mr. Hamelin makes his home in the Boston area with his wife, Cathy Fuller, a producer and host at Classical WCRB. Born in Montreal, he is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the German Record Critics’ Association, and has received seven JUNO Awards and 11 GRAMMY nominations, and the 2018 Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance from Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music. In December 2020, he was awarded the Paul de Hueck and Norman Walford Career Achievement Award for Keyboard Artistry from the Ontario Arts Foundation. Mr. Hamelin is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Québec, and a member of the Royal Society of Canada.

String Sextet in D Minor, Op. 70 in D Minor, ‘Souvenir of Florence’
Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky

Most Russian composers of Tchaikovsky’s era didn’t spend a lot of time writing chamber music. Some, such as Mussorgsky, didn’t compose any, while others such as Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov wrote just a handful of pieces each. Only Anton Rubinstein, the most western-oriented among them, regularly composed abstract works for small combinations of instruments. Tchaikovsky’s contributions were small in number but significant in value. The major works were three string quartets, a piano trio, and his final chamber work, this sextet for strings.

In 1886, he promised the St. Petersburg Chamber Music Society (at whose concerts his three string quartets had been performed) that he would compose a new work for them and dedicate it to them, in return for their electing him an honorary member. The next year he made some sketches for the piece, a string sextet, but a lack of creative energy led him to set them aside.

In January 1890, he traveled to Florence for a working holiday. He composed the opera The Queen of Spades there, in a short three months. He also took up the sextet once again, having jotted down a theme for the slow movement in June. After returning to Russia, he completed the sextet in August and gave it the subtitle Souvenir of Florence.

Composing it caused him considerable difficulty. As he wrote to his brother Modest, “I’m hampered not by lack of ideas but by the novelty of form. There must be six independent and at the same time homogenous parts. This is frightfully difficult. Haydn never managed to conquer this problem, and contributed only string quartets to the chamber music repertoire.” He eventually whipped the sextet into a shape that pleased him. After a private runthrough in St. Petersburg on 7 December 1887, the public premiere took place three days later. He revised the final two movements thoroughly before the piece was published in 1892.

Only a small number of string sextets preceded it, including pieces by Boccherini, Spohr, Brahms and Dvořák. This is an exceptionally challenging medium, falling somewhere between quartet and string orchestra. The difficulty of bringing together six equally matched players has resulted in all such works being performed on many occasions by larger groups of strings, as Tchaikovsky’s sextet will be at this concert.

The first movement is the most expansive of the four. It opens abruptly, with a thrusting, energetic theme. The second subject expresses all the yearning beauty for which Tchaikovsky is renowned. The violins introduce the songful theme of the slow second movement, over a pizzicato accompaniment. Solo instruments take their turns in the spotlight as this luxurious, almost balletic music unfolds.

The second pair of movements is briefer, less ambitious, and adds the flavour of Russian folk music to the score. The third movement’s outer panels offer a sort of melancholy serenade. After a momentary hesitation, the central trio turns into a lively dance. That same feeling powers the vivacious finale. Mid-way through, Tchaikovsky pays homage to western tradition with a passage in fugal style.

Piano Concerto No. 9, in E-flat Major, ‘Jeunehomme,’ K. 271
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

After an apprenticeship spent creating piano concertos based on themes by other composers, and the Concerto for Three Pianos (1766), Mozart composed his first fully original single-piano concerto (known as ‘No. 5’) in 1773. He wrote his first great work in this form, Concerto No. 9, in Salzburg during January 1777, nine months after Piano Concerto No. 8 in C Major and with few significant compositions in the intervening period.

The work has long been known by a nickname, the ‘Jeunehomme’ (Young Man) Concerto. This may be inappropriate. Authors Théodore de Wyzéwa and Georges de Saint-Foix claimed that Mozart wrote the piece for a French pianist, himself nick-named ‘Jeunehomme,’ who was visiting Salzburg.

Another scholar, Michael Lorenz, poses a different origin of the nickname. He demonstrated in 2004 that the concerto’s inspiration and dedicatee was actually Victoire Jenamy (1749-1812), the daughter of a noted French ballet master who was a firm friend of Mozart. She was also an expert pianist. Mozart met her during his stay in Vienna in 1773. Mozart performed the concerto at a private concert on 4 October 1777. Jenamy may have premiered the work earlier.

Inspired by her talents, his growing self-confidence, and a desire to stretch himself creatively, Mozart composed a concerto whose increased substance and individuality expressed his own personality, rather than the public’s taste, to a significantly greater degree than ever before.

It has several unique features. The piano enters almost immediately, to help present the cheeky opening theme, instead of waiting for the orchestra to complete the lengthy introduction typical of the period (Mozart never used this device again; Beethoven picked up on it in his Piano Concerto No. 4). The second subject is exceptionally warm-hearted.

Muted violins introduce the slow movement, an expressive creation filled with pathos. It is the earliest minor-key movement in a Mozart piano concerto. Scholar Neal Zaslaw writes of it, “In this extraordinary C Minor Andantino, the elegiac utterances of the soloist and the dramatic punctuation of the orchestra have the character of an accompanied recitative and aria, a type of music reserved in opera seria (serious opera) for moments of heightened emotion and flights of rhetorical expression.”

Mozart concludes his concerto with a festive Rondeau in which the piano takes centre stage and holds it throughout. It begins the movement, unaccompanied; introduces the full-scale, stately Minuet that crops up as a pleasant surprise episode mid-way through; pours out a florid solo cadenza; then brings back the Rondeau theme to usher in the high spirited conclusion.