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Album Review: Soiree
Susan Merdinger
Cover image of the album Soiree by Susan Merdinger
Susan Merdinger
2014 / Sheridan Music Studio
66 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Soiree is the seventh album to date by internationally-acclaimed classical pianist Susan Merdinger. I have to admit that this is the first of Merdinger’s recordings that I’ve heard, but I’m blown away by the beauty of her playing, which is technically perfect yet overflowing with emotion and heart. Ms. Merdinger can execute crystal-clear, lightning-fast runs and then turn a phrase into a delicate flower. Merdinger has won an extraordinary list of awards from competitions all over the world beginning as a young adult. Her vast repertoire spans three centuries and she regularly performs as a soloist with orchestras, recitalist, duo pianist, and as a collaborative pianist with distinguished members of the New York Philharmonic, the New Jersey Symphony, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Merdinger received her formal education from Yale University, the Yale School of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, the Westchester Conservatory of Music, the Ecole Normale de Musique in Fontainebleau, France, as a recipient of numerous scholarships and awards. Having formerly taught at Yale University, Westchester Day School, and New Music School of Chicago, Ms. Merdinger is currently on the Piano Faculties of the Summit Music Festival in New York, Burgos International Music Festival in Spain, and the Fine Arts Music Society Festival in Indiana. She is also the Artistic Director and Founder of Sheridan Music Studio in Highland Park, Illinois.

Soiree includes music by Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Claude Debussy, and Franz Liszt - a formidable combination that works beautifully as separate tracks and as a complete album. The opening tracks are the four-movement Schubert Sonata in B major, D. 575, K. 147. Schubert is one of my favorite classical composers, but I’ve never attempted this sonata, which is lighter and more upbeat than much of his music. Composed when Schubert was only twenty, Merdinger imbues the music with youthful zest and playfulness. The two Brahms Rhapsodies (Op. 79) are pieces I dearly love and have worked on with a couple of my advanced students over the years. I have never heard them played to such perfection, with passion and power as well as tenderness where the music calls for it. Brava! Debussy’s three-movement “Estampes” is a colorful and very challenging work very different from Schubert’s or Brahms’ music, but Merdinger makes it her own with precision and energy. The two Liszt pieces are his “Concert Paraphrase on Rigoletto” and his “Hungarian Rhapsody #12 in C# minor,” and both are breathtaking!

If you are a fan of masterful classical piano music, Soiree is a must-have! I look forward to exploring some of Susan Merdinger’s other releases, as I believe I have found a new musical hero(ine)! Soiree is available from susanmerdinger.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
August 26, 2014
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