World-famous pianist Marc-André Hamelin performing sold-out concert


Credit: Sim Cannety-Clarke

Marc-André Hamelin was awarded the Bienen School of Music’s 2018 Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance, which honors pianists who have achieved the highest levels of national and international recognition.

Eunice Lee, Reporter

Last year, world-famous pianist Marc-André Hamelin was awarded the Bienen School of Music’s 2018 Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance. This Friday, Hamelin will be coming to campus to make his official, sold-out Northwestern debut.

The biennial Jean Gimbel Lane Prize — which includes a $50,000 cash award, a public recital and two nonconsecutive residency periods — honors pianists who have achieved the highest levels of national and international recognition. It’s a prize one cannot apply to, but must be selected for by Bienen.

“It was wonderfully unexpected,” Hamelin said. “Considering who’s gotten the award in the past, it’s a true honor and really quite something to look up to. As soloists, we’re living in the practice room, and it’s things like this that really reinforce and validate what we do.”

As part of the award, Hamelin will be performing at Galvin Recital Hall on May 3 at 7:30 p.m. and working directly with Bienen students from May 1 to 2.

Jerry Tietz, Bienen’s director of concert management, said the task of selecting a prize winner was an “extremely difficult one,” given the many pianists who have contributed to the classical community through powerful performances. However, he said Hamelin seemed like a “good reflection of what Northwestern refers to as the ‘artist scholar.’”

“He’s known far and wide as a monster at the keyboard technically, but he’s also a successful composer and has made an enormous, prolific number of recordings,” Tietz said. “Hamelin’s contributions to the piano world are far more multidimensional than someone who simply plays the instrument well.”

Tietz added that Hamelin’s existing reputation as an influential, accomplished artist made it easy to get students excited for his performance at Bienen.

Bienen and McCormick sophomore Sophia Wong expressed her excitement for Hamelin’s arrival. As a piano performance major herself, she discussed the significance of renowned performers coming to Northwestern.

“The ability to listen to an artist who’s so prominent in the classical world is such a privilege for all the pianists and other musicians here,” Wong said. “Opportunities like these fuel inspiration for me because you get to see these really brilliant performers and recognize that this is the epitome of hard work. It just makes me just want to work even harder and continue pursuing music.”

Wong said it’s incredible that students get the opportunity to interact with Hamelin through masterclasses and Q&A sessions. When watching Hamelin teach, she said it will be interesting to understand the way he conceptualizes music and will impart his wisdom to execute “memorable, impressive performances.”

Hamelin said his programming focuses on finding a balance, so the anticipated recital will feature a variety of pieces, ranging from the familiar to the obscure.

“I tend to start with one particular piece that I really care about, or that I want to present, and then build something around it,” said Hamelin. “I’m very concerned with presenting lesser performed works, as well as the more standard repertoire. So an ideal recital for me would be an even mix of the two.”

Hamelin described piano literature as “an endless horn of plenty” since there are so many pieces that deserve to be heard.

With a world of undiscovered music, he said he hopes to “make a dent” in people’s appreciation for all types of repertoire. By broadening his network of concert venues and new orchestras, he aims to showcase his work and others’ works to audiences around the world.

“The only reason I go on stage is to share,” Hamelin said. “I love sharing. Sharing discoveries, sharing the repertoire they already know. And perhaps letting them hear the familiar in a new and different way.”

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