San Antonio Symphony concert combined tradition and electronics

Anne-Marie McDermott
Associated Press

Two orchestral favorites and a clever new piece inviting the use of a versatile technology device nearly everyone has - a smart phone - all brightened the first San Antonio Symphony classical series concert of 2019 on Friday night.

Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 and Brahms' Symphony No. 4 were the evening's main course. The appetizer was Tan Dun's 2015 "Passacaglia: Secret of Wind and Birds."

In the Mozart concerto, the pleasant surprise was soloist Anne-Marie McDermott, who was brought in with only a few days notice as a replacement for the ailing scheduled guest pianist Gabriela Montero of Venezuela. McDermott, a busy touring soloist, also serves as artistic director for several music festivals, including Colorado's Vail Valley Music Festival.

The Mozart Concerto No. 20 reaches into the realm of mythology with a minor-key darkness that defines the classical-era sturm und drang, or "storm and stress."

McDermott embraced that and more, gracefully and elegantly articulating every phase as only a Mozart specialist can.

Her playing felt truly authentic, something accentuated by her dressy white, Viennese-style blouse with its high, puffy collar. Her middle-movement approach was especially soothing, given the wrathful outer movements. If this were the only performance anyone ever heard, it is the only one needed. McDermott's spirited encore was from J.S. Bach's English Suite No. 2, BWV 807.

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