At last, they’ll rehearse: Pianist, director reunite for Tucson Symphony Orchestra concert

Anne-Marie McDermott
Arizona Daily Star

Anne-Marie McDermott has a funny story about the guest conductor who will lead her and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra this weekend.

A few years ago, she got a phone call from her manager. She needed to be on a plane in a couple hours and fly from home in New York to Florida to perform Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto.

Thing is, the celebrated pianist hadn’t played the piece in more than a year. But she raced home, packed a suitcase and was off to the airport. For the three hours that the plane sat on the tarmac, she played air piano in her lap, going over the piece again and again.

“The guy next to me was probably going nuts because I was moving my fingers in my lap. He had no idea what I was doing,” she recalled.

By the time she finally got to Fort Lauderdale, then jumped in a car for the 45-minute drive to Boca Raton, the concert had started. They arrived just before the intermission.

“I put on my gown. I had never met James Judd. We managed to shake each other’s hand and I played a scale or two,” recalled McDermott. “Then we managed to play Beethoven’s Second Concerto, no rehearsal and I hadn’t played the piece in a year. The performance went great.”

The pair will have plenty of time to rehearse when they are reunited to play with the TSO on Friday, Nov. 9, and Sunday, Nov. 11.

McDermott, who has appeared several times with the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music over the years and played with the TSO many years ago, is performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27, a piece that she will play several more times this season.

“This piece is completely magnificent,” she said. “Mozart always has this brilliance and sparkle and great clarity. But this concerto also to me has some nostalgia in it. It sounds like it’s a later concerto. The first movement is a little bit relaxed and still has a very uplifting, upbeat last movement and then the most heart-wrenching slow movement.”
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