In Friday’s (11/6) Times (London), Igor Toronyi-Lalic writes, “Marc-André Hamelin is not easily fazed. The French-Canadian pianist is what they call a super virtuoso. Stick any bit of Liszt, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Ligeti or Messiaen in front of him—stick a bar code in front of him, in fact—and he’ll probably be able to play it. Next week, however, as he walks out on stage at the Wigmore Hall he might look a little more nervous than normal. Awaiting his fingers will be one the most frightening piano compositions ever written: Charles-Valentin Alkan’s Symphony for solo piano from his 12 Etudes. … The race for ever greater virtuosity began with the technological transformation of the piano. … Today’s virtuosos and super-virtuosos, however, are reluctant members of the club. Many of the younger generation are shunning the repertoire and the older ones are shunning the label. … Stephen Hough is more unabashed. He’s one of very few pianists, alongside Hamelin, to keep alive the virtuoso tradition of the pianist-composer, almost always programming an impressively high-wire transcription of his own in his concerts. … For Hamelin and Hough the virtuosity is always focused on the musical and intellectual elements rather than the technical challenges or theatrical possibilities.”

Posted November 6, 2009