Donate Now to Support KDHX

Listen Live
Monday, 07 October 2013 22:56

Album review: Anne-Marie McDermott and the Calder Quartet make a strong case for downsized Mozart concertos

Album review: Anne-Marie McDermott and the Calder Quartet make a strong case for downsized Mozart concertos
Written by Chuck Lavazzi
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Pianist Ann-Marie McDermott and the Calder Quartet with bassist David J. Grossman
Mozart: Piano Concertos K. 414, 415, 449


Mozart piano concertos performed with a string quartet? Sounds crazy, no?

In fact, historical evidence seems to indicate that at least the first two concerti in this set were intended to be performed “a quattro” (with a string quartet) as well as with a full orchestra and optional winds. That’s probably true of the K. 449 concerto as well which, even though it was completed a year later, may very well have been started around the same time as the first two in 1782.

The logic behind this might have been economic to some extent. In Mozart’s time public concerts were not the common events they are today. Most music lovers learned about the latest works by playing them. And while only the wealthy could afford to assemble an orchestra, the expanding ranks of the bourgeoisie could easily manage to get together in their homes to play the latest music. If you were an amateur pianist, your circle of friends might not include a chamber orchestra, but it might easily include a string quartet.

Hearing these early concertos in such intimate arrangements certainly has its advantages. The musical structure is thrown in to high relief and the dramatic and even operatic quality of much of the writing is more evident. That’s especially true when the performances are as elegant, graceful, and sympathetic as the ones we get here from Ms. McDermott and the Calder Quartet (with the addition of Mr. Grossman for the K. 449).

As an Artist Member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Ms. McDermott might be expected to handle this material well, and so she does. This is wonderfully nuanced and supple playing which is, nevertheless, not lacking in drama when that’s called for (as it is in K. 449).

That’s equally true for the string players—both the quartet and Mr. Grossman. They seem to be the perfect performing partners for these concertos. After a while, I began to feel that a full orchestra might not, after all, be all that necessary for this music.

That said, I’m not sure a modern piano is the ideal instrument for concerti a quattro. Ms. McDermott and the string players are nicely balanced, but even so the piano sound feels a bit too robust. Mozart was likely writing for a five-octave fortepiano, which would have had a far more delicate sound and would, I think, blend better with the quartet.

Still, it’s a welcome release and highly recommended. Bridge seems to specialize in the unusual and rarely heard. You can find out more about their catalog at

Upcoming Concerts

Sponsor Message

Become a Sponsor

Find KDHX Online

KDHX on Instagram
KDHX on YouTube
KDHX on SoundCloud
KDHX on Facebook
KDHX on Twitter
KDHX on flickr

Local Artist Spotlight

Tok Releases Gold Dollar Hen House Volume 3

Tue April 8
Tok is a Festus based rock band who has been rocking St. Louis for 20 years. They are due to release their third installment of their Gold Dollar Hen House collection on February 28, 2014 at Schlafly's…

88.1 KDHX Shows


KDHX Recommends


The Minus Five

KDHX welcomes The Minus Five to Off Broadway on April 18th.   For more info,


Get Down To Business: Getting Booked Locally and Beyond

Ever wondered how to get that talent buyer to open your emails?  KDHX is here to help.   Join St. Louis promoters Steve Pohlman of Off Broadway, Brian McCormac of The Old Rock House, and Mike Cracciolo of The...


Tuesdays at KDHX Sessions: Worm-A-Rama

Tuesdays at KDHX Sessions presents Earth Day Worm-A-Rama with Jean Ponzi on Tuesday, April 22 at 7:30pm at The Stage. This visual-musical celebration of living on earth will feature musical guest, Augusta Bottoms Consort, tuneful...

Online Users

0 users and 7718 guests online
Sign in with Facebook


Login/My Account

Sign in with Facebook