by Melanie Wong
Last Saturday, pianist Anne-Marie McDermott and the Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet joined violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg for a performance at the 92nd Street Y. Both avid chamber musicians, Salerno-Sonnenberg and McDermott are longtime partners and perform together quite frequently.
The violin-piano duo opened with Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel [Mirror in the Mirror], a sweet, minimalist lullaby, where the piano set the mood with simple triads and soft, ringing bass notes while the violin slowly rose and fell with complete transparency. Although McDermott played beautifully, with a quiet energy, Salerno-Sonnenberg was unable to find purity in her sound and lacked the delicacy required for the piece. Alas, what could have been quite special ended up less than so.
Salerno-Sonnenberg, a virtuosic and forceful player, ripped through Prokofiev’s complicated passages with exquisite technique and flair, but her overall sound lacked depth at times. A pristine collaborative pianist, McDermott gave a fierce performance of the equally challenging piano part. As a duo, Salerno-Sonnenberg and McDermott are well-matched, both in musical intensity and technical ability.
After intermission, the Parker Quartet joined the duo for Ernest Chausson’s Concerto for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet. Chausson's neo-Romanticism was greatly influenced by the likes of Franck and Wagner, and his concerto is a scenic piece, full of rich chords and lush melodies that express a wide range of emotions.
Here, Salerno-Sonnenberg was full of life and McDermott maintained an astonishing level of energy throughout the demanding work. The quartet members were a beautiful addition to the duo—their dense sound amazingly unified, like one big, luscious sound, rather than four individual voices—making for a strong performance.