Anne-Marie McDermott: Mozart and Smetana

Our limited run of Anne-Marie McDermott with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center has ended its run but we are pleased to share this performance which is now available on YouTube. Anne-Marie McDermott performs Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor with Emma Resmini, Xavier Foley, Aaron Boyd, and the Calidore String Quartet. The Program Notes below help to explain why this is such a beloved piece of music. And, also worth noting: The Calidore Strong Quartet will be featured here in May as part of our streaming series this Spring.

PROGRAM

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791)

Concerto in D minor for Piano, Flute, and Strings, K. 466 (1785) (arr. Carl Czerny)
Allegro
Romance
Rondo: Allegro assai
Anne-Marie McDermott, piano • Tara Helen O’Connor, flute • Sean Lee, violin • Bella Hristova, violin • Paul Neubauer, viola • Mihai Marica, cello • Timothy Cobb, bass

BEDŘICH SMETANA (1824-1884)

Trio in G minor for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op. 15 (1855, rev. 1857)
Moderato assai
Allegro, ma non agitato—Alternativo I: Andante—Alternativo II: Maestoso
Finale: Presto

NOTES ON THE PROGRAM

Concerto in D minor for Piano, Flute, and Strings, K. 466 (1785) (arr. Carl Czerny)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Salzburg, 1756 – Vienna, 1791)

This piano concerto is one of Mozart’s most famous. It has demonstrated remarkable staying power, remaining popular from its premiere on February 11, 1785 through the 19th century (when some of his other music went out of fashion) to today. It received a glowing review from one of Mozart’s toughest critics—his father—at the premiere. In a letter to Mozart’s sister, his father described the evening’s success after Mozart barely finished the piece in time:

“On Friday evening at six o’clock we went to [Mozart’s] first subscription concert, where there were many important people… The concert was incomparable, the orchestra excellent… There was a new excellent piano concerto by Wolfgang, which was still being copied when we arrived. Your brother didn’t even have time to play through the Rondo because he had to oversee the copying.”

The rushed timeline is corroborated by Mozart’s catalogue, where he recorded completing the piece the day before the premiere. In typical Mozart fashion, a work he hastily composed and barely practiced quickly entered the repertoire. After Mozart’s death, the following generations embraced the work—Beethoven, Brahms, Busoni, and Clara Schumann all published their own cadenzas. The concerto was both a favorite of large Romantic orchestras and arranged to perform at home and in salons. Viennese composer/pianist Carl Czerny made tonight’s arrangement for flute and string quartet (with bass added for this performance). He left the solo part unaltered while expertly arranging just four string parts and a contrasting flute to capture the energy and excitement of a full orchestra.

Of Mozart’s 23 piano concertos, only two are in minor keys (this one and one in C minor from the following year). The music is Mozart at his most Romantic—stormy, dark, and full of drama. The first movement is the weightiest and gave the piece its long lasting appeal. Starting with the driving, offbeat D minor accompaniment in the ensemble, to the unassuming piano entrance, and through spirited passagework, this movement is vigorously tempestuous. The second movement is a complete turnaround, a calm and collected Romance, until the stormy mood from the first movement breaks in for a starkly contrasting middle section. The last movement is a frenetic romp in D minor before an upbeat major-key finale ends the work on a positive note.


FROM ANNE-MARIE MCDERMOTT:

This Mozart concerto performance stands out in my memory as an absolutely joy-filled and exhilarating experience. What a group of musicians to play a Mozart concerto with. I so love this arrangement of the D minor concerto by Carl Czerny. Somehow he captured the spirit and drama of this music with so few instruments—just the addition of the flute to the ensemble brings more depth to the work. I worship the cadenzas in this concerto that were written by Beethoven—they are a pianist’s dream!!

I find that playing a Mozart concerto with more intimate forces gives the music greater flexibility and intimacy and clarity. It is a great privilege to perform Mozart concerti in this form. This work is a perfect masterpiece—how did Mozart achieve that?

I grew up with two sisters who are musicians, Kerry (violinist) and Maureen (cellist), and I was blessed to grow up playing chamber music from a young age. It was an amazing experience to grow up in a household where music was always present.

Program notes by Laura Keller, CMS Editorial Manager


FROM ANNE-MARIE MCDERMOTT:

I have to also say that having the opportunity to play the Smetana trio with two of my favorite artists and friends, Ida and Gary, was an absolute thrill. We had the most memorable rehearsals and discussions and it all culminated in the performance. It affirms for me why I am so in love with what I do and how humbled I am to be able to do it!

———

For over 25 years Anne-Marie McDermott has played concertos, recitals, and chamber music in hundreds of cities throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. She also serves as artistic director of the Bravo! Vail Music and Ocean Reef Music festivals, as well as Curator for Chamber Music for the Mainly Mozart Festival in San Diego. Recent performance highlights include appearances with the Colorado Symphony, Florida Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony, New World Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, Tucson Symphony, Mexico National Symphony, and Taipei Symphony. She also returned to play Mozart with the Chamber Orchestra Vienna-Berlin at the Bravo! Vail Festival. She has performed with leading orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Columbus Symphony, Seattle Symphony, National Symphony, and Houston Symphony. Her recordings include the complete Prokofiev piano sonatas, Bach’s English Suites and partitas (Editor’s Choice, Gramophone magazine), Gershwin’s complete works for piano and orchestra with the Dallas Symphony (Editor’s Choice, Gramophone magazine), and, most recently, the Haydn piano sonatas and concertos with the Odense Philharmonic in Denmark. She tours each season with the Chamber Music Society, as a member of the piano quartet OPUS ONE, with violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, and as part of a trio with her sisters Kerry and Maureen McDermott. Ms. McDermott studied at the Manhattan School of Music, has been awarded the Mortimer Levitt Career Development Award for Women and an Avery Fisher Career Grant, and won the Young Concert Artists auditions.

Learn more about Anne-Marie McDermott at her website



Trio in G minor for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op. 15 (1855, rev. 1857)
Bedřich Smetana (Leitomischl, Bohemia, 1824 – Prague, 1884)

The following performance of Smetana’s Piano Trio in G minor was recorded by the Smetana Trio in Prague, on April 21, 2015; we are sharing the performance posted on YouTube

Before Smetana wrote his Czech operas, before he earned his place as the father of Czech music, before he became a Czech national icon, he was a struggling composer/pianist and father of four girls. And he knew tragedy. Three of his four daughters died young; only one survived to adulthood. The oldest daughter, Bedřiška (named after her father and nicknamed Fritzi), delighted Smetana with her precocious musical talent and even attended one of his concerts in her short life. Her death at age four was a particularly difficult blown to the composer. “Nothing can replace Fritzi,” he wrote in his diary, “the angel whom death has stolen from us.”

Smetana wrote the piano trio in the months after Bedřiška’s death to honor her memory. It is a work of grief and yearning. It is not tightly structured but rather full of jagged twists and turns like a desperate fantasy. The opening movement is based on two themes: the first is stridently declamatory and the second is a delicate melody that Smetana said his daughter loved. Rather than following with the expected slow movement, the second movement is a skittering scherzo with two trios, one introspective and the other a grief-filled march. There are tiny wisps of the work’s opening before the quiet, uncertain end. The third movement’s main theme is a dashing cross-rhythm gallop juxtaposed with dream-like episodes. Another march takes shape before an ending that, like the Mozart, clears away much of the turmoil that came before.

Smetana premiered the original version of this trio with violinist Otto Königslöw and cellist Julius Goltermann in Prague on December 3, 1855 (three months after Bedřiška’s death) and he reported unenthusiastic reviews. However, after receiving positive feedback from Liszt the following year, he edited the first and third movements and premiered a revised version in 1857. Its honest emotional outpouring has made it a staple of the piano trio literature.

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