New Century Chamber Orchestra Presents ‘Glory of Russia’

Anne-Marie McDermott
The Berkeley Daily Planet

The New Century Chamber Orchestra will present The Glory of Russia, a program of Prokofiev's Visions Fugitives, Op. 22, featuring pianist Anne-Marie McDermott; Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35, featuring McDermott and trumpeter Adam Luftman; and Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence, Friday at Berkeley's First Congregational Church.

"A fleeting set of impressions assembled from 20 piano miniatures," is how Visions Fugitives is described. Anne-Marie McDermott, who has been called "a passionate champion of the music of Prokofiev," recorded his complete sonatas (Arabesque Recordings) and chamber works, and has played the Shostakovich Concerto on a recent American tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

"I have a very intense relationship with Prokofiev's piano repertoire and chamber music," McDermott said. "What I find so intriguing and challenging is the extreme range of emotional demands as well as physical demands. He demands the performer to explore emotions ranging between naive, innocent, humor, devastation, despair, irony, sarcasm, powerful, ferocious, biting, passion and ecstasy. His writing allows the performer to explore a very wide range of colors at the piano and a great sense of abandon."

"The Visions Fugitives present a gentler side ... more subdued ... a very personal and intimate side of Prokofiev [but] no less imaginative and inventive," McDermott continued. It is "a series of night visions that contrast with each other, and, in this arrangement [by Rudolf Barshai], in dialogue between piano and strings ... a perfect contrast to the Shostakovich Concerto, which is extremely fiery and intense and flamboyant-it's a magical contrast!".

McDermott, who debuted in 1997 with the New York Philharmonic under Christian Thielemann, is recital partner to violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, The New Century Chamber Orchestra's music director since January 2008, after a debut with the orchestra the previous September. She was the youngest winner ever of the Naumberg Competition in 1981. The two have recorded together (including "Live" on NSS, Salerno-Sonnenberg's own label) and performed together here in a Shenstone Recital at Zellerbach Hall in 2005.

Souvenir de Florence is "a richly expressive and joyous romantic piece for sextet or string orchestra," and was featured in ‘Speaking in Strings,' the 1999 documentary about Salerno-Sonnenberg.

The Orchestra will conclude their season (May 14 in Berkeley) with a diverse program of "sweet dreams and nightmares" from Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik through Bernard Hermann's Psycho Suite and Borodin's Nocturne to featured composer Clarice Assad's premiere of NCCO-commissioned Dreamscape, and Strauss' Die Fleudermauss Suite.