Marc-André Hamelin | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Marc-André Hamelin

In 1982 he came first in the International Stepping Stones of the Canadian Music Competitions and won first prize at the International Piano Competition in Pretoria, South Africa.
Hamelin, Marc-André
Hamelin's piano playing is noted for its astonishing virtuosity (photo by Peter Shaaf). The music is an excerpt from an adaptation by Leopold Godowsky of R. Strauss's Serenade (courtesy CBC).

Marc-André Hamelin

 Marc-André Hamelin. Pianist, composer, b Montreal 5 Sep 1961; B MUS (Temple) 1983, M MUS (Temple) 1985. He began studying the piano at five and four years later continued his studies at the École Vincent-d'Indy with Yvonne Hubert and Sister Rita de la Croix. At Temple University in Philadelphia he studied with Harvey D. Wedeen and Russell Sherman.

Early Career

In 1982 he came first in the International Stepping Stones of the Canadian Music Competitions and won first prize at the International Piano Competition in Pretoria, South Africa. In 1985 he was awarded first prize at Carnegie Hall's International Competition of American Music, which entailed numerous engagements in the USA with well-known orchestras, an important series of recitals (including at Carnegie Hall), and a recording contract with New World Records. Hamelin appeared all over Canada and the USA. He performed at Lincoln Center in New York with the Manhattan Philharmonic Orchestra and the Riverside Symphony Orchestra, in Ottawa with the NACO, and with the symphony orchestras of several major centres including Toronto, Quebec City, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia. In 1987 he was a soloist with the MSO during its European tour. The Canada Council awarded him the Sylva Gelber Foundation Award in 1987 and the Virginia P. Moore Prize in 1989.

As Chamber Musician

He formed a duo with cellist Sophie Rolland in 1989; in 1991 they performed the complete works of Beethoven in Montreal, London, and New York. Hamelin also accompanied the soprano Karina Gauvin, and regularly performed a program of cabaret music with his wife, the US soprano Jody Karin Applebaum, which they also recorded.

As Soloist

Hamelin's recitals were characterized by a determination to introduce little-known repertoire from all periods, although he was equally adept at the standard concerto repertoire. In addition, he premiered many works by Canadian and US composers. He made his London debut in 1992 and returned often to Wigmore Hall. He performed, as soloist and with orchestras, in most major North American and European cities as well as in Japan, Malaysia, Australia, and Mexico, and was a regular guest in Munich and at the Lanaudière and other Canadian and European festivals. A member of Piano Six, Hamelin also toured to smaller Canadian centres.

As Composer

Hamelin began composing for the piano at age 19; he later recorded several of his own études. He also wrote difficult arrangements of piano works by Liszt and Chopin.


Hamelin recorded 84 discs by 2011, most with the Hyperion label. Of the lesser-known composers whose works he championed, he focused particularly on Leopold Godowsky and Charles Alkan. A six-time Juno award winner (1996-98, 2003, 2006 and 2008), a cd of his own compositions, Hamelin: Etudes (Hyperion CDA 67789) was nominated for a Juno award in 2011. Hamelin performed on the Grammy telecast in 2001. Eight of his recordings were nominated for Grammy awards, including Hamelin: Etudes in 2011. His recording Godowsky's Complete Studies on Chopin's Etudes (Hyperion CDA67411/2) received the 2000 Gramophone Instrumental Award and several critics' choice awards. In 1991 he recorded Eckhardt-Gramatté's Six Piano Sonatas (Altarus AIR-CD-9052).


Referred to as a 'powerful, poetic young Canadian pianist' by Andrew Porter in The New Yorker (22 May 1989), Hamelin was admired around the world for his formidably virtuosic technique and vast repertoire. In 2003 he became an Officer of the Order of Canada and in 2004 a Chevalier de l'Ordre du Québec. He was also the subject of the book The Composer-Pianists: Hamelin and The Eight. As of 2011 Hamelin lived in Boston, returning regularly to Canada to perform.

Selected Discography

Bolcom Twelve New Etudes - Wolpe Battle Piece. 1987. New World NW-354

Godowsky: original works and transcriptions. 1987. CBC Musica Viva MV-1026

Ives Sonata No. 2 'Concord' - Wright Sonata. 1987-8. New World NW-378-1

La Musique du réalisme magique II: Bouliane Douze tiroirs de demi-vérités ... NACO, Chmura conductor. (1991). SNE 567 (CD)

Sorabjii Sonata No. 1. 1990. Altarus 9050 (CD)

Further Reading