Notes and Editorial Reviews
I had the pleasure of hearing Anne-Marie McDermott perform live in 2003 at the Chamber Music Northwest series of concerts in Portland, Oregon, though it was not in a Bach program. She also recorded Prokofiev’s complete piano sonatas in 2003 for a seemingly short-lived release on the Arabesque label. The present release is not new, having been previously recorded in 2001 for the GMN label. It is here reincarnated on NSS Music, a label founded in 2005 by the well-known violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. McDermott studied at the Manhattan School of Music with such notables as Constance Keene and John Browning, and subsequently participated in master classes with Leon Fleisher, Menahem Pressler (of Beaux Arts Trio fame), Misha Dichter, Rosalyn
Tureck, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Mstislav Rostropovich. She has won numerous prestigious awards, including the Avery Fisher Career Grant and the Young Concert Artists International Award.
So much for background. It is unfair really to McDermott that her disc should have arrived so soon after Craig Sheppard’s illuminating traversal of Bach’s complete keyboard partitas on piano. From McDermott we hear absolutely superb playing (and an excellent recording, too, I might add) in what may now be referred to as a modern, post-Gould approach to Bach. In this category, I include the contributions of Angela Hewitt and András Schiff. Tempos are brisk but never rushed or frantic sounding. The dynamic and shading abilities of her modern Steinway (we are not told the model) are employed tastefully and tactfully. Repeats are taken, though with few and subtle embellishments. Bach’s contrapuntal lines are delineated clearly through intelligent phrasing rather than by any mannered punching out of imitative entrances. And though I was quite taken with McDermott’s leggiero touch – a sort of lightweight or feathery and slightly non-legato approach – in some of the quick-paced pieces (the Prelude to the A-Minor English Suite and the Courante to the G-Minor English Suite being prime examples), when it was all over and done, I can’t honestly say that these readings cast any magic spells or spoke to me of mystery and revelation, as did Sheppard’s recent release.
McDermott is a fine artist, and her Bach is not to be trivialized or dismissed. Rather, it’s a case of the excellent being trumped by the divine.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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