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Marc-André Hamelin is on an emotional rescue mission 

The piano superstar loves saving great music from obscurity.

click to enlarge SIM CANETTY CLARKE
  • Sim Canetty Clarke

Celebrated pianist and composer Marc-André Hamelin isn't worried you think classical music is dead. The Order of Canada recipient, who's performing with Symphony Nova Scotia at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium on Thursday and Friday nights, says the often-misunderstood genre is as alive as ever: "There are many, many immortal masterpieces that will never die," he says over the phone from his home in Boston.

Between the release of his September 2015 disc Ornstein: Piano Quintet & String Quartet No 2 and an upcoming May 2016 release, Hamelin has been living classical music non-stop by touring endlessly. At shows from Berlin to Phoenix, Hamelin has been offering his signature mix of expected classical numbers and lesser-known gems, punctuated with his own works. "I have a reputation for having unearthed a lot of unknown repertoire we've very seldom or never heard," he says.

Hamelin's love for lesser-known pieces stems from an early acquaintance with standard classical fare, he says. Hamelin watched his father, an amateur pianist, with rapt fascination as a toddler. By the age of five, Hamelin was taking piano lessons. As his skills and appetite for music grew, so did his need to explore the genre more.

How does Hamelin know an obscure piece is ready for revival? "I think it's a mix between what touches me and what I believe an audience might be ready for," he says. And, when it comes to his original compositions, Hamelin continues to chase what touches him, saying he is "inspired by life itself."

This liveliness, this wide-awake feeling, is what it's all about for Hamelin. "Human emotion has been the same throughout the ages. It's only the language, the way of expressing these emotions in music that has evolved over the years," he says. It's more about "what the composer has tried to say rather than how."

Marc-André Hamelin w/Symphony Nova Scotia
Thursday and Friday March 31 and April 1, 7:30pm
Rebecca Cohn Auditorium 6101 University Avenue


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