The works on pianist Mary Kathleen Ernst’s Keeping Time span a broad swath of years, from Jing Jing Luo’s “Mosquito” (1991) to Stefania de Kenessey’s “Spontaneous D-Combustion” (2012). But at the album’s heart lies a through-line that, in Ernst’s own words, “celebrates the timelessness of friendship and the ways in which great music binds us together.”
While at Juilliard over 30 years ago, Ernst discovered the wealth of music composed by women through her colleague and friend Judith Shatin. “During my early years of growth,” she says, “the music of these exceptional women captivated me and became an integral part of my repertoire as a pianist.”
On Keeping Time she repays that influence and friendship with deep, sensitive renditions of works by a range of women composers, including Vivian Fung, Jennifer Higdon, Katherine Hoover, Nancy Bloomer Deussen and the aforementioned Luo, de Kenessey and Shatin. The styles on display are wide-ranging, encompassing jazz, neo-classical, post-modern and serial, and Ernst, whose “refined technique and confident maneuverings” have been praised by the Washington Post, is sterling throughout.
Ernst has served on the faculties of the University of Virginia and Shepherd University. Her awards include a top prize in Spain's Jose Iturbi International Piano Competition, a US Information Agency Outstanding Artistic and Human Qualities award, and grants from Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Arts Partners Program, National Endowment for the Arts, and arts councils of Virginia and the District of Columbia.
"The piano keys melted like wax under the fingers of Mary Kathleen Ernst."
– El Pais, Madrid