What happens behind closed doors?

I'll take portamenti for the win.

Pianist Anne-Marie McDermott
  • Pianist Anne-Marie McDermott

The Mainly Mozart Festival sprinted out of the gate with four concerts on June 1, 2, and 3. Three of the opening concerts were Spotlight Chamber Music events in Rancho Santa Fe Garden, La Jolla, and Carlsbad with the formidable Anne-Marie McDermott featured on piano. The fourth was the end of year Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra concert.

Mainly Mozart

Brahms Piano Quintet

Brahms Piano Quintet

Joining McDermott were members of the Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra. I’ve written in the past about how much I don’t like reading artist bio/resumes at concerts. In this case I’m going to briefly share some facts about the musicians.

Violinist Alexander Kerr was appointed concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra at the age of 26. The Concertgebouw is considered to be the best orchestra in the world. Kerr is now the concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Nathan Olson, also on violin is the co-concertmaster with Alexander Kerr in Dallas.

Playing viola at these concerts was two-time Grammy nominee Paul Neubauer. Mr. Neubauer is the principal violist of the New York Philharmonic and teaches at Julliard.

On cello was Christopher Costanza who is a member of the St. Lawrence String Quartet and a recipient of the prestigious Solo Recitalists Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

All five musicians performed together on June 1 with Brahms’s Piano Quintet in F minor and on June 2 with Edward Elgar’s Piano Quintet in A minor. On June 2 an interesting discussion started at the artists “talk back” after the concert regarding the style of Elgar’s music.

The issue of the portamento was raised by an audience member. A portamento is colloquially referred to as a “slide” or in singing as a “scoop”. The uninitiated consider it to be sloppy and lazy but in reality it is a stylistic choice which requires diligent coordination.

The conversation went back and forth and I began to get the impression that the musicians would like to use the portamento style more often but current taste keeps them from going that direction. Anne-Marie McDermott intimated that the performances she does for herself behind closed doors are far more indulgent that what she performs in public.

I completely understand what she was talking about. The way I perform an opera aria in my bathroom mirror is far different from how I sang when I auditioned for The Metropolitan Opera Chorus. At the same time, there is merit in the bathroom mirror.

When McDermott discussed her closed door personal performances I instantly wanted to be a fly of the wall in that locked room. Then the thought came to me. How much of an artist’s art remains secret — kept behind locked doors in the bathroom mirror?

We’ll never know the answer to that question but I find it intriguing.

Anne-Marie McDermott will be the featured soloist in the June 9 opening concert of The Mainly Mozart Jacobs Festival Orchestra Series at the Balboa Theatre.

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