Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Barcarolle in F sharp, Op. 60 [9:09]
Four mazurkas, Op. 17 [13:54]
Berceuse in D flat, Op. 57 [5:07]
Ballade No 1 in G minor, Op. 23 [9:46]
Three mazurkas, Op. 50 [11:30]
Nocturnes Op. 9, Nos. 2 and 3 [11:05]
Three waltzes, Op. 64 [7:49]
Anne-Marie McDermott (piano)
rec. 2-4 January 2011, Academy of Arts and Letters, New York City, USA
BRIDGE 9359 [68:17]
Anne-Marie McDermott has previously won high acclaim for her Bach and Prokofiev, so maybe it’s no surprise that this Chopin is bracingly forceful. The mazurkas have steely strength, and McDermott doesn’t stray far from the form’s origins as a rustic dance. The barcarolle makes for a strong opener because of her combination of the requisite poetry with an unusual amount of physical strength. The first chord feels less once-upon-a-time and more now-hear-this!
This isn’t loud, clattering Chopin. But this is a style of Chopin which may not be for everybody. There are a few unambiguous successes - the glittering mazurka op. 17/3 - and some readings which excel at the more poetic. The nocturnes go well, but clarity and separation of the voices in the berceuse make it a standout. A few tracks will surprise those who prefer a softer tone. Some of the mazurkas feel very heavy; op. 17/1 is especially forceful, and the tender melancholy of op. 50/3 in C sharp minor is dissipated by the violence of the second theme. McDermott adds a staccato effect to the ‘Minute’ waltz which calls to mind some kind of player piano or amusement ride; I like it. Her habit of throwing enormous weight on the first chord recurs in the ballade, although except for a somewhat blocky, unnatural final coda the rest of it is excellent.
I will say this: McDermott has a really distinctive artistic voice, and it’s a fascinating one. Her Chopin resembles few others. You almost certainly do not have a reading of the C-sharp minor waltz that sounds like this one. I’d commend this most highly if you need to be stimulated by Chopin that’s quite different from the norm; I’d recommend it least if harshness and steeliness aren’t traits you want to hear in this composer. To Ms. McDermott, I’d ask when she’ll be recording the scherzos.
Recorded sound, at one of the piano world’s most reliable venues, New York’s Academy of Arts and Letters, is very good, neither cramped nor boomy. The booklet says the excellent instrument is a Hamburg Steinway D.
McDermott’s Chopin is distinctive. Her style won’t be for everyone but despite a few odd tracks I found much to like.
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