Chopin Recital

Anne-Marie McDermott

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Chopin Recital Review

by V. Vasan

Pianist Anne-Marie McDermott undertakes the task of an album of well-known and loved pieces by the great Frédéric Chopin. McDermott is an undoubtedly confident musician full of energy and solid technique: her runs and fast passages are executed with perfect accuracy, and she is always rhythmically precise. Thus, with an artist of McDermott's stature, one can instead focus on questions of taste and interpretation; the situation here seems to be that certain pieces are a wonderful fit, whereas others may not be the most ideal choice of repertoire. The Barcarolle is clean, bright, and elegant. Each note gets careful attention, and one can hear a good deal of bass in McDermott's playing. Chopin's writing here is full and densely textured. The Four Mazurkas each have a different character. No. 1 is dense, complex, full, and powerful. No. 2, however, could be interpreted with more delicacy and sensitivity, as McDermott chooses to do in No. 4. The same could be said about the Ballade No. 1. McDermott performs with quite a lot of power -- perhaps too much power -- as one can hear on the bold descent and fortississimo passage. The Ballade could benefit from more rubato, more grace, and phrasing, for it sounds a bit forceful. This tendency for great energy and a heavier, hammered sound is also evident in the Mazurka No. 3 (from the Three Mazurkas). Chopin often requires a certain melancholy and tenderness, very nuanced phrasing and rubato, and McDermott's sunny, confident style is sometimes at odds with this sensibility. However, there are times when she captures this perfectly, such as in the Berceuse. Her high registers are delicate and blooming, each note counts, and this shows off both McDermott and Chopin beautifully. The Nocturne in E flat major is played with a stately elegance and such tenderness in the end that one wishes the artist would interpret the music with more of this character. The Three Waltzes are also a strong point, with the first waltz being athletic and nonstop in its perfect perpetual motion. The waltz is up-tempo and cheerful, and while there is rubato, it could certainly be heightened. The third waltz is wonderfully danceable; one can virtually see a couple spinning around and can feel the cascading runs. In sum, there is certainly a lot of high-quality music here from a talented pianist. However, the choice of repertoire may not be that which shows off the pianist at her best.

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