HAYDN Piano Sonatas Vol 2 (McDermott)
Anne-Marie McDermott’s second release for Bridge devoted to Haydn further testifies to her masterful affinity for the composer’s style, as well as her ability to convey a specific character for every movement in each work. She does so by fusing pianistic sophistication and expressive economy, meaning that her diverse portfolio of articulations and shadings draw attention to the music first and foremost.
In the opening Andante of the two-movement C major Sonata (No 48), McDermott scrutinises Haydn’s espressione directive with a purposeful force that differs from the lyrically orientated norm. Instead of rounding off phrases, McDermott may accent a final note for emphasis, change dynamics when reiterating a melody or point up an accompaniment that usually recedes into a fuzzy background. Her slight accelerations within the Rondo’s main theme impart a gruff angularity to the music that proves both unusual and convincing. McDermott’s scales and embellishments in the Allegro con brio of the G major (No 39) are sharpened to a fault, whereas comparably pinpoint precision better suits the Prestissimo’s lilting wit.
The pianist’s terse and impeccably controlled Allegro first movement of the A flat Sonata (No 46) radically differs from Emanuel Ax’s multi-hued tenderness (Sony Classical, 10/03), although her disembodied deliberation in the Adagio equals and sometimes surpasses that of Sviatoslav Richter’s late-period Decca and Live Classics recordings (for better or worse, McDermott and Richter observe both Adagio repeats). However, Ax’s lighter legato touch wins out in the Presto finale. The Allegro con brio of the D major Sonata (No 37), assigned to thousands of piano students each week, emerges newly minted via McDermott’s firmly centred rhythm, impeccable balances and sparkling poise. In the Largo, McDermott wrings Sturm und Drang and anguished intensity from every bar. I don’t know if she’s channelling Beethoven or Billie Holiday, but it’s a pretty harrowing interpretation. More Haydn from McDermott, please!