Schubert Sonatas come together for Anne-Marie McDermott

Sometimes it all comes together — the music, the artist, the venue, the recording. That’s what happens with this release. It features two of Schubert’s most popular and challenging piano sonatas: The Piano Sonata in D major, D.850, and the Piano Sonata in B-flat major, D.960.

Both of Schubert’s sonatas are loose in form. At least, compared to his contemporary Beethoven. Schubert’s gift was melodic invention. Both these sonatas just move from one masterful vignette to another.

Schubert was criticized for the looseness of his structures. But formalism was never the point. These sonatas have form and logical growth if you know where to look.

And Anne-Marie McDermott does. Her performance of the D major sonata is artfully artless. It almost sounds as if she’s making it up on the spot. And yet she also brings out Schubert’s organization. Her phrasing ties recurring motives together, showing us the path that Schubert laid down.

The B-flat sonata was one of the last Schubert completed. It was meant as part of a trilogy. But it also works as a stand-alone work. McDermott imbues the sonata with more complex expression. The work seems introspective, and the emotional content more mature and nuanced.

These are great performances. And they’re perfectly captured. Bridge recorded McDermott in the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. This was the space that gave Dorian Records their signature sound back in the day.

The ambiance is spacious without being echoing. In many reviews, I’ve noted how well Bridge records pianos. And that skill is present here. The piano has a natural sound. It’s warm, yet clean. Powerful, yet clear.

Highly recommended.

Franz Schubert: Piano Sonatas Nos. 17 and 21
Anne-Marie McDermott, piano
Bridge Records, 9550A/B
2 CD Set

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