On Tuesday night, October 16, pianist Anne-Marie McDermott and violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg will present a one-night-only tribute to the music of George Gershwin. Entitled “Crazy for…Gershwin!,” this show will fuse the composer’s show tunes and concert compositions at Symphony Space’s Peter Jay Sharpe Theatre. It is the first of the venue’s Trio of Tributes this season, with further evenings devoted to Stephen Sondheim and Paul Motian. (The evening will be rounded out by a set of songs with vocalists Katie Geissinger and Robert Osborne, and the performers will be backed by Le Train Bleu, conducted by Ransom Wilson.) New York Press spoke with McDermott and Salerno-Sonnenberg about what makes the two performers such big fans of Gershwin – and of each other.
NYP: How did you both discover the music of Gershwin? What are each of your favorite works?
N S-S: Gershwin was introduced to me by my mama. Especially the Heifetz arrangements from Porgy and Bess, two of which we will be playing. It turns out they are quite difficult and challenging. And my favorite work of Gershwin’s without a doubt is his Piano Concerto in F. I have so many wonderful memories associated with that piece. I listen to it all the time in fact because it always puts me in a great mood. By the way, Anne-Marie has a fantastic recording of it.
A-M M: I fell in love with George Gershwin’s music when I was about ten years old after hearing a recording of the Rhapsody in Blue – it remains one of my favorite pieces. I am also very enamored of the Second Rhapsody!
NYP: What, in your view, made him such a genius?
N S-S: I think he was a genius because he wrote music in different genres. Writing a song and writing an opera or a concerto are very different beasts…and it takes a specific kind of talent to pull that off.
A-M M: Gershwin’s musical voice is truly unique and recognizable – his inventiveness and sense of style remain as fresh today as they were when he was alive.
NYP: Do you know how the music of Gershwin was selected for Symphony Space’s Trio of Tributes?
N S-S: I don’t know the specifics, but I do know that [Symphony Space artistic director] Laura Kaminsky is incredible at this sort of thing. She has a wonderful combination of juggling logistics and creativity, which is the only way anything gets done.
A-M M: The program is a creation of Laura Kaminsky, who never ceases to create magical musical journeys for the public. I am delighted to be part of it.
NYP: What can audiences expect OF “Crazy for…Gershwin!”?
N S-S: Well, for one thing…audiences can expect a lot of Gershwin! I think it will be special because the evening will be incredibly festive. Everyone performing really wants to be a part of it…and that can make all the difference.
A-M M: Who doesn’t love an evening with George Gershwin’s music? Every time that I work with Nadja, it is a special event! I also so love collaborating with Ransom Wilson, who I have so much admiration for. This is such a great group of musicians on stage tonight and it is a thrill to be playing in such distinguished company.
NYP: How did you select the songs for this performance?
N S-S: It wasn’t too difficult for me and Anne-Marie because we actually play some of these selections quite often as encores in our recitals. But I very much wanted to include Embraceable You, a work we don’t play together. The reason being it is a spectacular arrangement by Russell Warner. It’s almost epic.
A-M M: I felt committed to playing the very first published work of George Gershwin, Rialto Ripples. I was introduced to the work by Jeff Tyzik and it is a treasure. It is a short and very endearing piece! It is always a joy to play the Rhapsody in Blue – what a masterpiece! Nadja and I have played Gershwin very often together, but the Embraceable You is a very special experience. This arrangement of it is truly spectacular and no one plays Gershwin like Nadja – by the way, Nadja has an amazing recording of Embraceable You!
For more information about the October 16 performance of “Crazy for…Gershwin!,” visit http://www.symphonyspace.org/event/7538-crazy-for-gershwin-
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