Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Anne-Marie McDermott: Transparent Mozart Concertos

W.A. Mozart: Piano Concertos (chamber versions)
Anne-Marie McDermott, piano
Calder Quaret
David J. Grossman, bass
Bridge Records

The three piano concertos (Nos. 12-14) on this new release had a somewhat checkered history. Mozart composed them as small-scale works in 1782 for a subscription concert he wished to put on.

The ensemble parts were composed in such a way that wind instruments were optional, and the string parts could be reduced to a simple string quartet if necessary. Thus, however much money was raised, the ensemble parts would be covered. Unfortunately, the subscription was unsuccessful. The works were eventually published, but only the full orchestral versions.

Hearing these three concertos in chamber form is something of a revelation. I didn't miss the orchestra at all. The pieces work very well with just a string quartet (or in the case of Piano Concerto No. 14, K.449 string quartet and bass) supporting the piano. It's a very clean, clear sound, and one that's perfectly, well, Mozartian.

Anne-Marie McDermott plays with taste and delicacy, capturing just the right emotion. Overly dramatic or aggressive playing could easily make the piano overpower the string quartet. And that's something that never happens on this recording. The Calder Quartet and McDermott are in full agreement, mutually working towards the same end.

These are delightful performances that I'll return to again and again. These chamber versions of the concertos are Mozart at his sunniest. Highly recommended, especially if you're only familiar with the full orchestral versions of these works.

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