Marc-Andre Hamelin has generated alot of excitement. His recordings for Hyperion, especially of little-known works by relatively modern composers such as Godowsky, or of concertos by Busoni and Shostakovich, are of such high quality that he was given the "high honor" of being sole classical performer during a recent Grammy Awards telecast (2001). Hamelin's piano technique on this recording is little short of stunning. There are moments that sound as if he had 20 fingers, his attack is that fiendishly fast and powerful. Pianists will respond much like guitarists upon first hearing Segovia or Joe Pass: an urgent desire to cut the strings. Yet Hamelin never subsumes expressiveness in favor of technique. These performances are tasteful and appropriate. Big emotions in the broadly Romantic Rubinstein. More introspection in the lesser-known but excellent Scharwenka. Michael Stern conducts the fine BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra with fire and taste: a perfect foil for the intense technique that Hamelin exhibits. Both concertos are quite good. Hyperion's superb Romantic Piano Concerto series continues from strength to strength, with hardly any loss in quality over the years.
The Hybrid Multichannel SACD sounds spectacular. The sound is immediate, full and warm from all 5.1 channels. The rear channels contain more than the usual ambiance. One feels immersed in music. The horns are especially present. The piano is recorded center front, with the orchestra slightly behind and surrounding it. It is well focused with a wide soundstage. Good sound systems will enjoy being shown off with this SACD. This recording is a gem. Pianists, especially, will treasure it: even as Hamelin's scary technique infuriates them.