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The SPA Trio: Songs from the Salon

Songs from the British Isles and Italy + Rachmaninoff & Gounod
Susanna Phillips, soprano | Paul Neubauer, viola |  Anne-Marie McDermott, piano

Something Interesting

Historic recordings of some of the great singers of yesteryear include many performances of salon type songs.  Some of these included  John McCormack with Fritz Kreisler, Marian Anderson with William Primrose, and Bing Crosby with Jascha Heifetz! It is repertoire of great charm, featuring arching melodies, emotional harmonies, and simple textures.

Featured Artists

Susanna Phillips, soprano

Soprano Susanna Phillips, recipient of The Metropolitan Opera’s 2010 Beverly Sills Artist Award, continues to establish herself as one of today’s most sought-after singing actors and recitalists. In the 2019–20 season, she returns to The Met as the Countess in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, makes her role debut as Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová, and reprises the role of Musetta in Puccini’s La bohème. She returns to Opera Theatre of St. Louis for her role debut as Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah. In concert, Ms. Phillips sings Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the San Francisco Symphony at its opening night gala concert led by Michael Tilson Thomas, Handel’s Messiah with The Philadelphia Orchestra led by Jane Glover, and John Adams’s El Niño with the Houston Symphony led by David Robertson.

Recent operatic highlights include performances at The Met as Micaela in Bizet’s Carmen, Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, and Clémence in The Met premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de loin. Internationally, she made her debut at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu as Pamina in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and at the Zurich Opera House and Opera Frankfurt as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni.

Ms. Phillips’s concert engagements have included the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic as well as the Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, and The Philadelphia Orchestra. She has also appeared in the title role of Handel’s Agrippina and as Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare with the Boston Baroque.

Susanna Phillips is a native of Huntsville, Alabama. More than 400 people traveled from her hometown for her Metropolitan Opera debut in La bohème, in 2008. She returns frequently to her native state for recitals and orchestral appearances.

Paul Neubauer, viola

Violist Paul Neubauer's exceptional musicality and effortless playing led the New York Times to call him “a master musician.” He recently made his Chicago Symphony subscription debut with conductor Riccardo Muti and his Mariinsky Orchestra debut with conductor Valery Gergiev. He also gave the US premiere of the newly discovered Impromptu for viola and piano by Shostakovich with pianist Wu Han. In addition, his recording of the Aaron Kernis Viola Concerto with the Royal Northern Sinfonia was released on Signum Records and his recording of the complete viola and piano music by Ernest Bloch with pianist Margo Garrett was released on Delos. Appointed principal violist of the New York Philharmonic at age 21, he has appeared as soloist with over 100 orchestras including the New York, Los Angeles, and Helsinki philharmonics; National, St. Louis, Detroit, Dallas, San Francisco, and Bournemouth symphonies; and Santa Cecilia, English Chamber, and Beethovenhalle orchestras. He has premiered viola concertos by Bartók (revised version of the Viola Concerto), Friedman, Glière, Jacob, Kernis, Lazarof, Müller-Siemens, Ott, Penderecki, Picker, Suter, and Tower and has been featured on CBS's Sunday Morning, A Prairie Home Companion, and in Strad, Strings, and People magazines. A two-time Grammy nominee, he has recorded on numerous labels including Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, RCA Red Seal, and Sony Classical and is a member of SPA, a trio with soprano Susanna Phillips and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott. Mr. Neubauer is the artistic director of the Mostly Music series in New Jersey and is on the faculty of The Juilliard School and Mannes College.

Anne-Marie McDermott, piano

Pianist Anne-Marie McDermott is a consummate artist who balances a versatile career as a soloist and collaborator. She performs over 100 concerts a year in a combination of solo recitals, concerti and chamber music. Her repertoire choices are eclectic, spanning from Bach and Haydn to Prokofiev and Scriabin to Kernis, Hartke, Tower and Wuorinen.

With over 50 concerti in her repertoire, Ms. McDermott has performed with many leading orchestra including the New York Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Columbus Symphony, Seattle Symphony, National Symphony, Houston Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Moscow Virtuosi,  Hong Kong Philharmonic, San Diego Symphony, New Jersey Symphony and Baltimore Symphony among others. Ms, McDermott has toured with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Moscow Virtuosi.

In the recent seasons, Ms, McDermott performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic, North Carolina Symphony, Charlotte Symphony, Huntsville Symphony, Alabama Symphony, San Diego Symphony, the Oregon Mozart Players, and  the New Century Chamber Orchestra.

Recital engagements have included the 92nd Street Y, Alice Tully Hall, Town Hall,  The Schubert Club, Kennedy Center, as well as universities across the country. Anne-Marie McDermott has curated and performed in a number of intense projects including: the Complete Prokofiev Piano Sonatas and Chamber Music, a Three Concert Series of Shostakovich Chamber Music, as well as a recital series of Haydn and Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Most recently, she commissioned works of Charles Wuorinen and Clarice Assad  which were premiered in May 2009 at Town Hall, in conjunction with Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
As a soloist, Ms. McDermott has recorded the complete Prokofiev Piano Sonatas, Bach English Suites and Partitas (which was named Gramophone Magazine’s Editor’s Choice), and most recently, Gershwin Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra with the Dallas Symphony and Justin Brown.

In addition to her many achievements, Anne-Marie McDermott has been named the Artistic Director of the famed Vail Valley Music Festival in Colorado, which hosts the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Dallas Symphony  in addition to presenting over 40 chamber music concerts throughout the summer.  She is also Artistic Director of  two new Festivals; The Ocean Reef Chamber Music Festival and The Avila Chamber Music Celebration in Curacao.

As a chamber music performer, Anne-Marie McDermott was named an artist member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in 1995 and performs and tours extensively with CMS each season. She continues a long standing collaboration with the highly acclaimed violinist, Nadja Salerno Sonnenberg.  As a duo, they have released a CD titled “Live” on the NSS label and plan to release the Complete Brahms Violin and Piano Sonatas in the future. Ms. McDermott is also a member of the renowned piano quartet, Opus One, with colleagues Ida Kavafian, Steven Tenenbom and Peter Wiley.

She continues to perform each season with her sisters, Maureen McDermott and Kerry McDermott in the McDermott Trio. Ms, McDermott  has also released an all Schumann  CD with violist, Paul Neubauer, as well as the Complete Chamber Music of Debussy with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

Ms. McDermott studied at the Manhattan School of Music with Dalmo Carra, Constance Keene and John Browning. She was a winner of the Young Concert Artists auditions and was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant.

Ms. McDermott regularly performs at Festivals across the United States including, Spoleto, Mainly Mozart, Sante Fe, La Jolla Summerfest, Mostly Mozart, Newport, Caramoor, Bravo, Chamber Music Northwest, Aspen, Music from Angelfire, and the Festival Casals in Puerto Rico, among others.

About The Music

Songs from the Salon

Program Notes by Aaron Grad

Composers began pairing singers with instrumental soloists more than 300 years ago, applying the Italian label of obbligato to those secondary but indispensable parts. The tradition has flourished ever since, crossing all generations, national borders and stylistic boundaries, as can be seen in this wide-ranging recital that frames the viola as a most obliging partner for a soprano voice.


The opening Songs from the British Isles reflect the tastes of England and Ireland during the first decades of the 20th century, when music was a prime vehicle for pastoral sweetness, local pride, and nostalgic longings for home. The first and last songs became famous during World War I, and the well-known ballad “Danny Boy” put new lyrics onto a traditional Irish tune known as the “Londonderry Air.” Edwin Greene’s “Sing Me to Sleep,” written in 1902, became a best-selling record for the soprano Alma Gluck when she released a version in 1916 featuring obbligato contributions from her husband, violinist Efrem Zimbalist.

The first of this set of Songs from Russia began as one of the Six Romances that Sergei Rachmaninoff published in 1893, setting a text by Pushkin. With a new English translation by the popular Irish tenor John McCormack and an obbligato part provided by the violinist/composer Fritz Kreisler, the melody became “O Cease thy Singing, Maiden Fair,” recorded for Victor Records in 1920 and published two years later for the large market of amateurs who loved to sing and play arrangements like these at home. Wedged among these early gems from Rachmaninoff is a song known in English as “Lily of the Valley,” composed in 1894 by Anton Arensky, a quintessential Russian Romantic who taught Rachmaninoff and Scriabin among many other future stars at the Moscow Conservatory. The original Russian text of the song comes from a poet better known for his musical talents: none other than Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky.

Charles Gounod made his biggest impact in the field of opera, providing a French counterweight to Wagner’s heavy Germanic influence through such gems as Faust from 1859. In 1872, while living in London, Gounod used an existing hymn text to create Evening Song for a local recital by an esteemed piano professor and guests. (It was a significant enough event that two newspaper reviews survive; The Musical Standard pronounced the new song “rather tame,” but The Musical World noted that it “received great applause.”) Gounod’s serenade based on a Victor Hugo poem, known in English as “Sing, Smile and Slumber,” has long been one of his most popular melodies, and musicians greatly appreciate the optional obbligato part published with the score to allow for contributions from cello or any other melodic instrument.

A final set of Songs from Italy straddles “popular music” and “art music”—a modern distinction that was meaningless at the time these songs were created. A fan of the Italian songwriter Paolo Tosti, for example, might have been delighted to pay two cents for the new edition of the song La Serenata that appeared in 1908, embellished with an obbligato violin part by Guido Papini, an Italian virtuoso based in London. This was (and still is) the kind of music meant to be enjoyed in good company, whether gathered around a jangly upright piano in the family home or seated in a posh public venue.

© 2021 Aaron Grad.


Wednesday, December 7, 2022

6:00pm: Member Reception
7:00pm: Concert

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