Hoopes, McDermott bring verve, sympathy to CMS program

Wed Mar 24, 2021 at 7:41 am
Chad Hoopes and Anne-Marie McDermott performed violin sonatas by Mozart, Schumann and Debussy in a livestreamed concert by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Monday night.

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s ongoing Front Row: Digital Season has a new entry. To the mix of on-demand, archived concerts, and programs assembled thematically from previously taped events, CMS presented a live concert Monday night of violin sonatas, played by violinist Chad Hoopes and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott.

The musicians offered works of Mozart, Schumann and Debussy from the Rose Studio; preceding each live performance, Hoopes and McDermott discussed the music in a prerecorded rehearsal setting. This was a nice feature, a way to introduce the pieces to the audience that is more engaging than program notes or a pre-concert lecture, providing a bit of insight into the rehearsal process in an enlightening fashion.

The live performances switched to a formal concert atmosphere but the playing had verve, equipoise, and a sympathetic appreciation for the differing aesthetic values of each of the three composers.

In Mozart’s Violin Sonata in C major, K. 296, that meant a performance that was light-footed and rhythmically buoyant (a brief sour moment of violin intonation assured one that  the playing was happening in real time). Without ever pushing too much emphasis, the duo developed substantial feeling, and even some poignancy, in the lovely Andante sostenuto. Hoopes in particular added touches of variation in his timbre, and played with a fluid and quick-thinking approach to dynamics.

Hoopes’ romantic sensibility, and the warm, grainy, singing tone he projected in Schumann’s A minor Sonata, Op. 105, was ideal for the music. He doesn’t play with a heavy bow, and McDermott always plays with a clear sound—the passion they brought out in the music came from their expressive phrasing, pushing the momentum forward hearing, pulling back slightly, catching their breath, like a runner gathering their determination before heading up a hill.

In their introduction to Debussy’s Violin Sonata, Hoopes and McDermott talked about just what a violinist can do in terms of tone and sound, how to adjust the bowing to alter the timbre of a pitch. That’s one of the fundamental demands Debussy makes in the sonata, his last completed composition. The music not only has a mercurial structure, but the sound Debussy had in his ears, as the musicians discussed, was the tonality and colors of gamelan music.

Debussy wasn’t writing world music, but using ideas from other traditions to find new approaches to harmony and the direction of a piece. Hoopes and McDermott brought out the freshness with a complete command of the rhythmic underpinning of the music. The cascading variety of phrases, their moods and patterns, delivered a performance with a grip that came through the small screen of a computer monitor.

This streamed concert is available through March 29 chambermusicsociety.org/


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