Canadian Marc-André Hamelin is one of the world's most highly regarded piano virtuosos. He has a wide-ranging and large repertory with an uncommonly large proportion of little-known keyboard works of several eras in music. Critic Carol Bergeron of the Montréal newspaper Le Devoir called him "Glenn Gould's only worthy successor," and the New York Times' Harold Schonberg described him as a "super-virtuoso."
He studied at the Vincent d'Indy School of Music (part of the University of Sherbrooke in Montréal) and continued his musical education in the United States at Temple University in Philadelphia, earning his bachelor's and master's degrees there. His teachers were Russell Sherman, Harvey Weeden, and Yvonne Hubert. He still makes his home in Philadelphia.
In 1985, he launched his career with a first prize victory in the Carnegie Hall International American Music Competition. Since then, he has appeared in recital in a large list of international venues. A partial list includes New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, Montréal, Washington, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Berlin, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Luxembourg, Milan, Munich, Paris, Vienna, London, and Belfast. He tends increasingly to present series of thematically linked recitals. For instance, he appeared in the Manchester, England, Glories of the Piano Festival, a 1994 Wigmore Hall (London) series called Virtuoso Romantics, and in 1999, he began a six-recital three-year series of Tokyo appearances collectively called "150 years of Pianism with Marc-André Hamelin."
He has appeared in orchestral concerts in Toronto, Vancouver, Montréal, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Birmingham, London, Ulster, Lahti, Amsterdam, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Belfast. Festival performances include the Blackheath Halls Pianoworks Festival, the Diszniki Chopin Festival, La Grange de Meslay en Touraine, the Lanaudière Festival, the Ruhr Piano Festival, the Ravinia Festival, La Roque d'Antheron, the Singapore International Piano Festival, the Snape Maltings Proms, the Schloss vor Hussum Rarities of Piano Music, the Valldemossa Chopin Festival, the Festival of Consonances, the St. Nazaire Festival, the Espoo Festival (near Helsinki, Finland), and the Tallinn Festival in Estonia.
He has performed in concert or recital with such organizations and artists as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Montréal Symphony, the Polish National Radio Orchestra, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Ulster Orchestra, the CBC Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and conductors Andrew Davis, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, David Zinman, Dmitri Sitkovetsky, Osmo Vänskä, Dennis Russell Davies, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Christoph Eschenbach, and Günther Herbig.
His activities in the recording studio have reflected his interest in unusual music. He has recorded works of Alkan, Bolcom, Busoni, Catoire (a virtually unknown Russian composer), Godowsky, Eckhardt-Gramatté, Grainger, Henselt, Korngold, Ives, Medtner, Reger, Rzewski, Sorabji, and Wolpe. Larger-scale projects have included a multi-disc set of the piano music of Heitor Villa-Lobos, the complete Godowski elaborations on Chopin etudes, and the complete piano sonatas of Medtner and Scriabin. The Alkan album won the Canadian Juno Award, the Grainger recording received the Soundscapes Award 1997, and a set called "Composer-Pianists from Alkan to Hamelin" was the Preis der Deutschen Schallplatten Kritik in 1997 and 1998.
In 1994, Hamelin joined with a group of other well-known Canadian pianists (Janina Fialkowska, Jon Kimura Parker, Angela Hewitt, Angela Cheng, and André Laplante) to form Piano Six. This unique musical partnership brings their playing to small and far-flung communities in the vastness of Canada as its members provide their service for minimal fees that permit ordinary people to afford to attend.