French Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin is known for his recordings of ultra-virtuoso music, starting with Liszt and going up from there to the likes of Alkan, Godowsky, and the iconoclast Leo Ornstein. As his career has developed, though, he has sought to avoid being stereotyped, offering some fine recordings of sonatas by Haydn and proceeding to the generally non-virtuosic Schumann. In this one, he programs Schumann's Waldszenen, Op. 82 (Forest Scenes), with Book I of Leos Janácek's On the Overgrown Path, its natural successor. Both works superimpose murky psychological threads on nature imagery, naturally much more explicitly in Janácek's case. This would seem to be anything but Hamelin's home ground, but he succeeds in setting a mood and keeping it going. His performances run almost completely counter to type: they are low-key, not fast, and in places almost impressionistic. With the Kinderszenen, Op. 15, as a sort of encore, the entire program has an impressively sustained intimacy and quiet allusiveness. Of course there is room for performances that do a bit more with the music, but it's clear that Hamelin is anything but a one-note pianist. Hyperion's engineers do much to make London's Henry Wood Hall sound smaller than it actually is.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|On the overgrown path, Book 1|
|Waldszenen, Op. 82|
|Kinderszenen, Op. 15|