Mainly Mozart’s Anne-Marie McDermott: Stunning Pianism

Anne-Marie McDermott
San Diego Story

Although the music of Antonín Dvorák assumed center stage Saturday (January 9) at Mainly Mozart’s Spotlight Series presentation at the Auditorium of The Scripps Research Institute, clearly the stars of the show were the five brilliant and dedicated musicians who performed and were directed by the brilliant and beautiful Anne-Marie McDermott.

I have a confession to make. I ‘like’ Dvorák, for the most part, but I don’t ‘love’ him. Having said that, I freely and contradictorily admit that his Piano Quintet is one of my all-time favorite pieces. I also have to admit that the piece was one of my childhood loves as performed and recorded by Rubinstein and the Guarneri String Quartet. Frankly, I was a little bit worried that whatever these fine musicians presented on Saturday night would fall pathetically short of my Proustian recollection. For the most part, I was wrong, although in some ways I nailed it. 

I have to say that from the outset of the opening movement, I was stunned by McDermott’s piano playing. She transcended the traditional accompanying role and presented a truly virtuosic display without ever impinging upon the collective presentation required in all chamber music. Her tone is broad, and yet she brings a unique clarity to the chord voicings. Her obvious mastery of all of the details of the entire score allows her to support, cajole, make commentary upon and generally articulate every aspect of the performance without imposing upon the other musicians’ creativity or interpretative powers. McDermott’s artistry follows directly in the lineage of Menachem Pressler, the brilliant, long time member of the celebrated Beaux Arts Trio. 

Nuttall, who traded chairs with Moretti for the Quintet, proved an exciting and sensitive leader. Wearing one of the most remarkably beautiful tuxedos I’ve personally ever seen (let’s just say it was a dusty rose of the most contemporary and stylish cut), he was assiduous in not allowing virtuoso flash to minimize the chamber music quality of the piece. 

I commend McDermott one other thing.  In her role as the Spotlight Series’ Curator, she brings extraordinary but, in many cases, less well-known colleagues. For this concert, she struck gold. The next program on the series will be a joint concert featuring the Szymanowski Quartet and the Attacca Quartet scheduled for February 27-28. 

Read the rest of the review here