Margery McDuffie Whatley

Press

American Record Guide, Review of Mozart to Gershwin

Mozart to Gershwin
Margery McDuffie Whatley, Steven Hesla, p
ACA 20110—79 minutes

This attractive Georgia-born pianist now resides in Missoula, Montana. For the two piano version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue she has linked with Steven Hesla, a faculty member at the University of Montana. This is Whatley’s third recording for ACA. Besides the Gershwin, Beethoven’s Sonata 17 is the other main work on this recording. Whatley plays it with little pedal and articulates with great clarity. Although the competition is fierce, she more than manages to hold her own and gives a strong profile to the music. Despite an almost endless list of fine performances, there is always room for yet another if it is of this quality.

Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is a warhorse that has managed to survive practically every permutation, especially in the hands of pianists with imagination and flair. Whatley has both and manages to swing with the best of them. Hesla is an effective partner, and one rarely misses an orchestra (or jazz band). At around 17 minutes, the music is uncut. Chopin’s Scherzo 1 and Nocturne 8 are models of expressive clarity. There are no blurred passages in the difficult Scherzo, and the Nocturne is lovingly executed. Debussy’s ‘Reflects dans l’eau’ and Griffes’ ‘White Peacock’ are both impressionist pieces and call for a bit more indulgence and pedal than Whatley is willing to give them. All is a little too clear— too direct, when a slower, more introspective approach might work better. Not willing to continue with this nitpicking, I must admit her performances are quite pleasing, and I might eventually be won over by her approach. Mozart’s Variations will always be, a crowd pleaser. ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ sparkles.

~ BECKER (from American Record Guide, Sept/Oct 2011)