Maria Joao Pires finds a pianist she likes

Maria Joao Pires finds a pianist she likes


norman lebrecht

May 23, 2023

The semi-retired Portuguese pianist has discovered a revelation in Kalamazoo:

I attended the concert of Marc-André Hamelin in Kalamazoo, performed by the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Julian Kuerti. I went to listen to a pianist I greatly admired, and I experienced an extraordinary event, unlike anything we find in concert halls today. I was captivated by a piano filled with grace and dignity, the most remarkable interpretation of Rachmaninoff’s 3rd concerto. We were privileged to engage in a true dialogue with Rachmaninoff, experiencing the full beauty, energy, and visionary essence of his music, where each note held profound meaning and conveyed a powerful message. It was an incredibly moving experience, something truly exceptional in our modern times.
Je suis allé au concert de Marc-André Hamelin à Kalamazoo, avec l’orchestre symphonique de Kalamazoo, dirigé par Julian Kuerti. Je suis venue écouter un pianiste que j’aimais beaucoup, et j’ai assisté à un événement exceptionnel, auquel on est plus habitués. J’ai entendu un piano plein de dignité, avec une interprétation du 3ème concerto de Rachmaninov la plus extraordinaire. On a eu le privilège d’un vrai dialogue avec Rachmaninov, dans toute sa beauté, son énergie, son côté visionnaire, où chaque note avait un sens et un message. C’était une grande émotion, quelque chose d’unique de nos jours.


  • Herr Doktor says:

    Maria Joao Pires is spot-on! I have never understood how Marc-Andre Hamelin is considered anything less than an A+ level pianist. I don’t know why he isn’t consistently performing with the top orchestras in the top venues – he’s that exceptional. He’s the real deal and best heard live, and in the 6+ live concerts I have heard, never once has has he given anything less than a tremendous performance. He seems incapable of doing anything routine.

    When I think of who I consider the 5 greatest living pianists, my list includes Martha Argerich (#1), Evgeny Kissin, Krystian Zimerman, Marc-Andre Hamelin, and Garrick Ohlsson. Lars Vogt would have made that list not long ago, but tragically he’s no longer with us. Ditto Nelson Freire.

    One “new” pianist who has blown me away now in 3 concerts is Beatrice Rana. I can’t wait to hear her again.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Don’t miss Pina Napolitano.

    • Been Here Before says:

      That’s spot on! The recitals by Hamelin and Ohlssohn I heard at the Wigmore Hall were the best I had the privilege to attend over the last couple of years. Both are underrated and should have a much bigger career.

      Argerich and Kissin are in the league of their own, of course.

      I have been saying in my comments for some time that Rana is a wonderful pianist, but I guess her outfits are not colourful or revealing enough attract much attention.

  • Simon Scott says:

    I admire a good many pianists but my four all-time favourites are: Glenn Gould, Friedrich Gulda, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and last but by no means least the great Ervin Nyiregyhazi. What a sound he made on that piano!

    • esfir ross says:

      The greatest of our time-Grigory Sokolov

      • Christopher Storey says:

        Another vote for Sokolov as the greatest of our time, which is not to decry all the others mentioned including Maria Joao Pires herself

    • Paul Carlile says:

      A truly ghastly selection!

      • Paul Carlile says:

        I’d like to emphasise that my “ghastly” comment was in reply to Simon Scott’s selection….especially for Ervin Near-edge-hazy.

        • Simon Scott says:

          @ Paul Carlile.
          Don’t you like Ervin Nyiregyhazi? He was a very colourful figure. No pianist ever had such unparalleled sonorities. Listen to his Vallee d’Oberman. You will be gobsmacked. Not to mention his Schubert/Liszt Wanderer, especially the last movement.

          • Paul Carlile says:

            @Simon Scott. Well, i realise that fans of “cult” figures are totally convinced and not easy to persuade otherwise, but for me, Near-edge, is a thick, heavy, clumsy noise. Can you imagine him partnering a cellist, or a singer? I have heard the items you propose (persuaded equally by fans), and cordially detested all, musically and pianistically!

            Gobsmacked enuf to turn off! Why anyone thinks that crashing around in over-pedalled bass and blundering thru phrases like a rogue elephant is a musical “sound” is beyond me. “Colorful figure” doesn’t compensate for the musical massacre and pianistic problems.

            I heard the original LPs in the 70s; twas a curiosity deserving rapid oblivion. In the internut age, Near-edge has become a cult (nearly a typo there!), but each to his own, as i’ve said; cult fans are impervious! Your other choices, altho not favorites of mine (with some exceptions), are at least (very) competent instrumentalists and stand out as gods compared to Earvin Near-edge! A strange discussion in the context of MJP and MAH! Happy listening to you.

    • Minnesota says:

      Plane crashes and dynamite also make big sounds, if that is what you want.

  • Genius Repairman says:

    Hamelin is one of my favourite pianists alive today. He has a way of entering into the psyche of the composer’s time and place and bringing that out in his playing.

  • Joe P says:

    The opinion expressed by Ms. Pires have only been clear to me for 44 years……