SOIRÉE - Susan Merdinger

SOIRÉE - Susan Merdinger (Piano) - Schubert - Liszt - Brahms - Debussy - Released: July 2014 - Sheridan Music Studio 888295134347

1} Franz Schubert: Sonata in B major, D. 575, Op. 147
2} Johannes Brahms: Rhapsody in B minor, Op. 79 No. 1
3} Johannes Brahms: Rhapsody in G minor, Op. 79 No. 2
4} Claude Debussy: Pagodes
5} Claude Debussy: La Soirée dans Grenade
6} Claude Debussy: Jardins sous la Pluie
7} Franz Liszt: Concert Paraphrase on Verdi's "Rigoletto"
8} Franz Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 in C-sharp minor

Although I've never seen pianist Susan Merdinger performing 'live' on stage, upon listening to this CD for the first time, I couldn't help but visualize a very animated on stage presence - punctuated head gestures, hands flailing in the air, eyes shut with an air of impudence - you know the type. Curiosity got the better of me, so immediately following my initial listening session, I watched a couple of video clips of her performing on stage in front of a live audience, and her stage behavior is actually the complete opposite of what I had imagined. It's just that her playing, regardless of the composer, is always so deeply expressive, so strongly animated and driven forward by the power of the music itself, that she doesn't need extraneous body gestures to convince anyone of the music's inherent power and her ability to channel it to the listener.

For example, certain passages within the Brahms Rhapsodies reach levels of expressive passion that border on the aggressive, but quite appropriately so, and never simply for showmanship. Her Debussy is always airy and precise, never cloudy. Her Liszt is virtuosic, refined and statuesque all at once. She always seems to know exactly how much emotional weight to give each and every phrase. It's as if she doesn't just play the notes, but actually analyses each one's involvement in the chain of events before playing it, all done on the fly. Best of all is that the quality behind her interpretations seems spontaneous and instinctive, and never fabricated.

Jean-Yves Duperron - September 2014