Anne-Marie McDermott is not nearly as well-known as she should be. She has everything: intelligence, superb technique, musicality, ideas of her own, courage in her programming, and voracious curiosity about her instrument's literature. She has recorded, and played in recital, everything from Bach to Nancarrow. She studied with Constance Keene (another pianist not nearly well-known enough) and John Browning and made her Carnegie Hall début at twelve. She is a workaholic of the piano, practicing sometimes up to twelve hours a day. And she looks like a movie star. (OK, I know that's not relevant, but it IS true.) And on this CD she plays Bach as to the manner born.
The first track, the Prélude of the Second English Suite, is taken at breakneck speed and fair takes one's breath away. There is no sense of it being rushed, but rather one feels a kind of expansive joy in the ease and grace of the playing; one can hear McDermott enjoying herself, and because of her rock-solid security, even at this speed, one can feel it, too, without having to fear it will get out of control. The same is true, in spades, in the Gigue that concludes the Partita No. 1, which is then followed (clever planning on Bach's part!) by the oh-so-grand introduction to the Prélude of the next Partita, No. 2, which then loses its serious tone and becomes the jaunty Andante (this is a fast stroll, not a leisurely saunter, and in the last section the Prélude becomes a sprint). This is spectacular Bach playing, full of the juices of life. The concluding Third English Suite is more of the same; the Prélude throbs with energy, the Gavottes I & II make you dance, the Gigue has you up and spinning.
If I had to sum up McDermott's way with Bach I'd say that she removes his powdered wig and gives us a view of Bach, the flesh-and-blood human, full of the same kinds of passions as modern-day folks. And she does it with élan and impeccable musicianship.
Heartiest recommendation, and worth every penny.