McDermott's Expressive Hayden Sonatas

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Franz Joseph Haydn helped to create the symphony and the string quartet, and his vast output in those genres gets plenty of attention. But, as pianist Anne-Marie McDermott told her audience in the Gildenhorn Recital Hall of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on Thursday night, the Haydn piano sonatas "are really underplayed and incredibly inventive pieces of music."

As part of the William Kapell International Piano Competition and Festival, the concert helped to spotlight the diversity of the piano repertoire. More important, it allowed McDermott to prove her point with spectacular performances of five of the sonatas, presented in chronological order to show Haydn's development in the form.

The one constant in Haydn's sonatas is drama. Even the "Allegretto e innocente" movement of the early Sonata in G No. 54 provides hair-raising elaborations on its initial material, which McDermott essayed with brio and humor. She also had fun with the wild textural contrasts of the Sonata in C Minor No. 33, which can move from commanding chords to fleet figuration to lyrical interlude in the space of a few bars. Yet she played Haydn's sublime slow melodies simply and eloquently, as in the gentle Adagio of the Sonata in F No. 38.

In the last two sonatas McDermott played, the C No. 60 and the E-flat No. 62, Haydn adds a mature depth to the relentless creativity of the earlier works. McDermott created irresistible tension in the finale of the C Major by prolonging the movement's frequent silences before relaunching the music, and she brought out both the grandeur and the human emotion of the great E-flat, with a magical account of the tender slow movement.

-- Andrew Lindemann Malone

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