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Interview with Marc-André Hamelin

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Marc-André, we’re delighted to have you joining us in august with a wonderfully rich programme of Herz, C.P.E. Bach, Schubert, and Schumann at the 2019 Machynlleth Festival. Wonderfully rich is a fairly apt description of your repertoire at large – as a recording artist your discography is staggering – I was wondering if you could share with us what your process is when first approaching a new piece of work?

Well, it really depends on what it is, and it depends on how familiar I was before actually tackling it myself. Sometimes it’s a completely new piece, and sometimes I’ve known it all my life but never actually had it under my fingers, so the approach in either case would be very different.

And to what extent would you say that your background as a composer influences how you approach the scores of other composers – whether that plays a large role in your interpretations, and whether it fosters any mutual understanding?

It plays such a large role in fact, that I am very admiring of interpreters who are not composers, because I think that being a composer gives you an invaluable insight as to the genesis of a work, and of how a work is constructed, and what may have inspired the composer to write down such a work. I think that being a composer yourself brings you a couple of steps closer to understanding that creative process. When you compose yourself, you take the works that you interpret much less for granted and realise at least part of what went into their creation. Also, on a more technical level it helps to have much more respect for the many details in a score and the importance of understanding and interpreting physical notation – because every composer writes differently and understands music differently, and will express themselves with it differently. Notation is really the only means we have of translating our thoughts as composers, so if you have learned how to deal with notation yourself, then you have a better chance of making the right decisions as an interpreter.

Undoubtedly, and holding that same line of thought to some of the works that you’ll be performing with us here at the Machynlleth Festival – I wondered whether these are new works for you, so to speak, and what your relationship with these pieces is as an interpreter?

Well, firstly let me establish the programme because it is a little unusual. I’ve been doing a very different programme for the whole season.

In the case of the Herz variations, it’s really a piece of fluff from the 19th Century. This is the kind of thing that some virtuosos like Herz and Thalberg and even Liszt provided by the bushel. It was to make the operas that they paraphrase more popular as performances were relatively rare, and also let’s say honestly it was to impress the crowds with their brilliant piano playing. (laughs) I do think this particular set of variations distinguishes itself, however. A lot of these pieces have very little substance, it’s all flash, and after a performance of them you’re often left with a kind of empty feeling. Whereas this one I think, distinguished itself from the pattern, because it’s actually quite charming, and the proportions are great, and on the whole I think it’s really one of the most accessible little sets of variations of that kind from the 19th Century. All of Herz’s large body of piano music is almost totally forgotten, his piano Concerti have been recorded – there are eight of them – but on the whole his brand of musicianship hasn’t survived very well because its either salon fare or superficial concert piano, but I do think this particular piece is worth reviving, it’s certainly worth hearing.

As far as the C.P.E. Bach is concerned, that is rather a recent revelation for me. About 10 years ago or so, I heard a recording of Mikhail Pletnev on Deutsche Grammophon devoted to C.P.E. Bach – my wife is a radio producer and announcer at the WCPH radio station here in Boston, and she actually played one of the sonatas from this recording and I was really very smitten by it, I was just stunned by it. One of the most remarkable things about it is that though the whole thing is not much more than 7 minutes long, he manages – or he has the audacity – to end the whole piece in the middle of the phrase, he just cuts it off. And for something written in the 1780s it’s really quite something. It’s a very avant-garde thing to do, and at least for that reason the piece fascinated me – though I do like the rest of it as well (laughs).

There is not much I can say about the Schumann Fantasie or the Schubert that almost anybody could say better, except that I have lived with these works for a long time and they are good friends. The pleasure of performing them is almost inexhaustible because they are so rich in content and so rich in implication that it is always a renewed pleasure to perform them. There will always be new things that revel themselves each performance.

What do you do to mentally – or physically – to prepare before a performance?

I don’t get consciously nervous, I’ve always been very fortunate that even from the very beginning of my career I have always regarded the public as a friend. I basically approach any concert with a feeling of an experience to be shared, it’s really an offering – practically a love offering to the public, I’m there to say look how beautiful this is, or, look what you’ve been missing.

It must be wonderful as a performer to feel as though each performance is a shared experience – that your communication with the audience is something you can revel in.

Yes, and I do realise that I’m very lucky in that. Even some of the greatest interpreters, some of the most legendary names were petrified in front of audiences – some of them even had to be pushed onto the stage!

You have travelled all over the world sharing with different audiences and I know for a fact that you have performed in some spectacular venues – would you be able to share in a few favourites of these with us?

Well, I should mention the Wigmore, and of course, the Royal Albert Hall. The Royal Albert Hall is one of the most special feelings you could ever have, and I’m glad to say that I’ll be experiencing it again this year because I have a Prom on August 28th. There are some Japanese halls that are absolutely marvellous, the Meyerson auditorium in Dallas where the orchestra plays in Texas is pretty terrific, and I’m sure there are quite a few more which I am forgetting.

We have a rather unique venue here for the Machynlleth Festival, the Tabernacle. It’s a very intimate space, a converted Wesleyan Church, which is really quite sparse, but the acoustics are fantastic. The Tabernacle also functions as a congregational space so is able to facilitate a real sense of shared experience between performers and audiences similar to that which you referred earlier. Can you think of any venues which you have performed in that stand out for these same reasons?

There is actually a small hall that I just played in a few weeks ago in the province of Quebec, it’s in a very small town and the venue itself is actually an academy called the Domaine Forget, and, I’m convinced it’s one of the very best small halls in the world. There are quite a few exceptional recordings that have been made there. It’s relatively new, but it’s one of the most acoustically successful projects in recent years that I can think of.

And do you find that there is a notable or significant difference between performing in a smaller, more intimate venue like the Wigmore or a much larger space like the Albert Hall?

Well, whatever differences there may be, they are ones that I am not aware of because my degree of commitment to the music and to the audiences is always the same no matter what I do. There’s a more marked difference – so says everybody who knows my playing – between my live performances and my studio recordings. Though, again I have to say that in these two instances the degree of commitment is exactly the same because I’m there to serve the music, but, in the case of a live performance there is a public that I can feel and I can see that I am playing for.

I do have a few more questions which are slightly more general. Firstly, if you weren’t a world-class musician, which other occupation would you turn your hands to?

If I had to examine my various interests, I’ve always had a fascination with languages. I don’t know how this interest would have manifested itself, whether as a translator or a linguist or whatnot. And I say this only as one who speaks two languages – my native language is actually French. But I have always been fascinated with communication and if I got off my behind I’d like to learn a couple more languages, I think it would serve me well.

It seems a very apt choice too given that you’ve expressed how you find performances to be an act of communication. Is there a particular piece of music that you would play on a bad day to make yourself feel better?

(laughing) There is not just one. As I discover new things these pieces tend to change. I can’t really think of one at the moment, but I can tell you that it has happened, yes.

Are there any particular genres beyond classical that you enjoy playing or just listening to?

Playing – not so much, because one thing that I wish I had had early on was jazz training, musically it is a completely different plain of thought altogether. As far as listening to anything, I’m basically open to anything that shows a little imagination.

I enjoy how you describe yourself as willing to listen to anything that shows a little imagination. I think that’s wonderful criteria to have when listening to any music.

Yes, well, I would say, for example, I have been a fan of Frank Zappa for a long time, almost 40 years. I think I have heard almost everything he’s ever done – I don’t listen to it as much anymore, but still I am very fond of his music.

If you could recommend me a piece of music either that you listen to or that you have enjoyed playing that you would deem to be a ‘hidden gem’ so to speak, what would it be?

Wow. Well, I don’t know whether it’s a hidden gem, but one of my more recent recordings is a piece by Morton Feldmen called For Bunita Marcus which I did for Hyperion. It’s very remote from almost everything I’ve ever done for them – I’ve done very little new music and this piece was written in 1985. But I’d say if classical music listeners are looking for a different experience, very remote from what they know, but which can be fulfilling in this particular way then I would say try it out. It’s about 72 minutes long, its triple piano from first note to last, with the pedal held all the way through, and there are really very few notes. I wouldn’t call it minimalistic, but Feldman, I think, succeeded in creating a kind of music that really doesn’t sound like anything else – it’s a world, or in fact, several different worlds unto itself. It really is one of the most intriguing things I’ve ever done, and that I’ve ever been exposed to and I would urge people to give it a try.

I do have one final question, which is what advice you might give to those who are just beginning to study the piano?

Don’t limit yourself to just practicing the piano, listen to music, get familiar with the repertoire. The world of piano music offers an infinite amount of possibilities as far as repertoire, or interpretive approaches – but I must add that I am not a pedagog, so I am not used to the world of people who are just starting out.

That is very good advice nonetheless, and a good note to finish with. Thank you so much for talking with us today – it has been enlightening. We very much look forward to welcoming you to Machynlleth in August.

Thank you, and likewise. I look forward to joining you for the festival.



Lectures and Poetry

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Glyndŵr Award with Clive Hicks-Jenkins
1pm Friday 23rd August

The welsh artist, Clive Hicks-Jenkins, is the recipient of this year’s Glyndŵr Award for an Outstanding contribution to the Arts in Wales. Having started his career as a stage director and choreographer, Clive turned to painting in the early 90s. His exploration of landscape, both inner and outer, has brought about a wealth of emotionally charged works that hold narrative at their core.

Clive will be awarded with the 2019 Glyndŵr Award before delivering a talk on his latest work, Hansel and Gretel,a collaboration with the new poet laureate Simon Armitage, re-imagining the Brothers Grimm tale with new contemporary interpretation and focus. Armitage’s extended narrative poem alongside Clive’s powerful illustrations create a ‘darker, glittering Hansel & Gretel fairy story for the 21st century’ in which ‘refugees, bombed villages, homelessness, [and] a landscape where nothing is quite as it seems’ gives rise to a story of ‘humanity, humour and hope’. The original illustrations for this collaboration will also be exhibited in our gallery throughout the Festival.

Clive has delivered his art through the medium of painting, drawing, printmaking, ceramics, maquettes, artist’s books, and animation, proffering a rich and varied body of work that he has since exhibited across the UK, with his works in multiple collections including our own Tabernacle Collection. Clive has been a member of The Welsh Group for almost twenty years and in 2011 his work was celebrated in a hugely successful retrospective at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth where he is an Honorary Fellow. Despite its varied incarnations, Clive’s work has often returned to depictions of welsh landscape, culture, and tradition, such as his early thematic collection The Mare’s Tale, depicting the experiences of his father as a small boy terrified by the Mari Lwyd, and his 2018 collection of screenprints tracing the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Clive has come to be known as one of the ‘most individual and complete artists of our time’, with Robert Macdonald hailing him as ‘one of the most powerful figurative painters in Wales today’.

Hallstatt Lecture – Professor Miranda Aldhouse-Green
1pm Wednesday 21st August

Dreams, Divination and Devotion:
Exploring the Ancient Druids of Britain and Gaul

For this year’s Hallstatt lecture we are pleased to be joined by the archaeologist and academic, Professor Aldhouse-Green, who will be delivering an illustrated talk exploring the role of the Druids in ancient Gallo-British society. The talk will focus particularly on the Druid’s principal function: using arcane ritual practices in order to act effectively as intermediaries between the earthly and spirit worlds.

Aldhouse-Green is a former President of The Prehistoric Society, an international learned society devoted to the study of the human past from the earliest times until the emergence of written history. Her research interests are largely based in Iron age, Romano-Celtic, and particularly Gallo-Roman iconography, and sacrificial activities. Universities UK cited Aldhouse-Green’s research into understanding the Celts as one of the ‘100 major discoveries, developments and inventions,’ by academics throughout the UK to have transformed the world in the last 50 years, and we are thrilled to be hosting her at this year’s Machynlleth Festival.



Machynlleth Festival’s Rising Stars

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The Machynlleth Festival has played host to many excellent musicians in its thirty-three years at the Tabernacle Centre, with the 2019 Festival being no exception. It brings us particular pleasure, however, that this year’s festival will be showcasing a number of brilliant young artists who have already proved themselves to be trailblazers.
 
 

Jess Gillam & Zeynep Özsuca

Notable among them is Jess Gillam, a phenomenal young saxophonist who has recently exploded onto the scene. Last year Gillam closed the 2018 BBC Proms with an exceptional performance of Milhaud’s Scaramouche to standing ovation, which, alongside her celebrated performance at the 2019 BAFTAs has aptly earned her a place on the New York WQXR’s ‘19 for 19′, their ‘annual list of the most exciting classical artists on the planet’. At only 20 years old, Gillam signed an exclusive recording deal with Decca Classics becoming the first saxophone player to join the historic label. In April of this year she released her sensational debut album ‘RISE’ to widespread critical acclaim, earning the No.1 spot of Official UK Classical Chart, and becoming the youngest ever saxophonist to reach No.1 in the classical charts. Gillam’s trailblazing does not stop at music, as through the launch of her new radio feature This Classical Life, she has also become BBC Radio 3’s youngest ever presenter. Having already conquered the charts and the airwaves, Gillam seems set for stardom, and we are thrilled to be hosting both herself and the accomplished concert pianist and chamber musician, Zeynep Özsuca at this year’s Machynlleth Festival. The Tabernacle’s new Managing Director Emily Bartlett has tipped this concert as this year’s Must See Event so make sure to join us for this vibrant programme of music on Thursday 22nd August for a Lunchtime concert at 1.00pm. £15.00
 
 

Pavel Kolesnikov

This year’s Festival will also play host to Russian pianist Pavel Kolesnikov who, despite his youth, has already been deemed a ‘poet of the keyboard’ by reviewers. Since becoming Prize Laureate of the Honens International Piano Competition in 2012, Kolesnikov has performed all around the world, his intelligent programming and outstanding pianism thrilling audiences internationally. Kolesnikov’s recordings have earned worldwide critical acclaim, with his current disc of the Chopin Mazurkas, released on the Hyperion label, winning a Diapason D’Or Award. Making his Machynlleth Festival debut this year, Kolesnikov will be joining us with a programme of Chopin, Beethoven, Schumann, Bartok and Debussy on Sunday 25th August for a Lunchtime concert at 1.00pm. £15.00
 
 

Masterclass with Dame Anne Evans

Besides these two rising stars, the Festival will also be hosting a Masterclass for young singers, currently studying at conservatoires around the country, and led by the great soprano Dame Anne Evans. The Masterclass will run for two sessions in the morning and afternoon, of Friday 23rd August, culminating in a concert performed by the students at 5pm. £8 or £5

Be sure to book your tickets in advance to secure a chance to catch these rising stars now!



Juan Gorriti

09-02-17

MOMA Machynlleth has recently hosted an exhibition in the Sculpture Space and the Tannery Gallery by the Basque artist Juan Gorriti, his first in the UK. To commemorate this exciting collaboration, between Wales and the Basque Country, Celtic Neighbours and MOMA Machynlleth commissioned this mixed media artwork by Luned Rhys Parri as a gift to Gorriti. The little chair is a happy reminder of ‘Gorriti blue’.



Recent Acquisition

07-02-17

Malcolm Ryan
Two Children Sleeping

The Tabernacle Collection’s most recent acquisition, shortly to be shown in The Tannery Gallery in the ‘Gift of the Artist’ Exhibition. 18.02.17 – 22.04.17



Museum Achieves Accreditation

The Machynlleth TabernMOMA MACHYNLLETH LOGO (Green Background)acle Trust has been awarded accreditation, by the Museums, Archives and Libraries Division of the Welsh Government, for its Museum of Modern Art. It passed with flying colours.

As a result of its new status the museum will in future be known as MOMA Machynlleth. Andrew Lambert, the Founder of the Trust, is happy with this change of name as he believes it will further strengthen Machynlleth’s unique position in the culture and language of Wales.

The Accreditation Scheme sets nationally agreed standards for museums in the UK. There are currently just under 1,800 museums participating in the scheme, demonstrating their commitment to managing collections effectively for the enjoyment and benefit of users.



30th Anniversary Celebrations Concert

24-10-14

BRYN TERFEL AT THE TABERNACLE

The 30th Anniversary Celebrations at The Tabernacle will reach a highpoint on Saturday 7th February 2015. Bryn Terfel is coming back!

He will sing with two local choirs Côr Gore Glas and Côr Aelwyd Bro Ddyfi, with their Conductor Magwen Pughe. Magwen is a retired teacher who works very hard within the Dyfi Valley with both these choirs and also with Ffermwyr Ifanc Bro Ddyfi (Young Farmers).

Bryn Terfel will be accompanied by the Musical Director of Côr Godre’r Aran, Eirian Owen, an official accompanist at the National and Llangollen Eisteddfodau. Eirian is an Honorary Life Member of the Friends of The Tabernacle.

Also performing will be Hannah Stone, Official Harpist to HRH The Prince of Wales.

Tickets will be available from 8am on Monday 1st December, at MOMA Wales or by phone (01654 703355).

Tickets: £25 – £30.



Recent Acquisitions

16-01-14

The Tabernacle Collection is the permanent collection of MOMA WALES. It contains more than 250 works of art created since 1900 with the emphasis on artists living in Wales. We are immensely grateful to those who have donated paintings and to the late Nora Gibbs, Mollie Winterburn and John Sylvanus Davies without whose legacies such a magnificent collection would not have been possible.

 
 

TC251 Peter Bishop - Snowdon from Llyn Nantlle

Peter Bishop
Snowdon from Llyn Nantlle
Acrylic & enamels on canvas

 

TC253 Judy Linnell - November Sea Pembrokeshire

Judy Linnell
November Sea – Pembrokeshire
Watercolour & gouache

 

TC252 Ian Jacob - JFK to LHR

Ian Jacob
JFK to LHR
Oil on canvas

 

TC254 Clyde Holmes - Winding River

Clyde Holmes
Winding River
Oil on board



Sculpture

02-12-13

Robert Bryce Muir

Study of a Straining Figure

Steel

From the private collection of Philip Ashton & Blair Wallace.

On loan to MOMA Wales for three years.



Latest Acquisition

20-11-13

Simon Pierse, Lecturer in Fine Art at Aberystwyth University School of Art, has donated From the roof, Tikse Gompa to The Tabernacle Collection. This pencil and watercolour work was a key piece in Simon’s Paintings of Ladakh exhibition held at MOMA WALES in 2000 and we are extremely grateful. It has been given a great welcome on its return.



CURATOR APPOINTED TO MOMA WALES

21-05-13

Richard and Ann Mayou Fund Curatorship

The new Curator appointed to the Museum of Modern Art, Wales in Machynlleth will be Lucinda Middleton. Lucinda has extensive and highly relevant experience as Exhibition Project Manager at the Panacea Museum, Bedford, and as Curator of Fine & Decorative Arts at the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro. In Bedford she was responsible for setting up a fascinating new museum of historic and newly researched artefacts connected with a local charitable and religious movement, and in Cornwall she worked with local and national artists on setting up new exhibitions and special projects. Lucinda will take up her post in May.

Supported by the Richard and Ann Mayou Fund, the curatorship at MOMA WALES is expected to generate exhibitions, forge new partnerships and mount touring exhibitions. The present Museum Director and Chairman of the Machynlleth Tabernacle Trust, Ruth Lambert says “we look forward to welcoming Lucinda to this exciting new post that Professor Mayou has created for us.”



New additions to the Tabernacle Collection

02-11-12

Following his recent exhibition at MOMA WALES, Gareth Nash kindly donated his work Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo to the permanent Collection.