Notes and Editorial Reviews
Winterreigen. Pastorale. 3 Singular Pieces.
Waltz from Delibes’s
Martin Roscoe (pn)
HYPERION CDA 67871 (80:30)
Hyperion has titled this CD
Dohnányi: The Complete Solo Piano Music
, Volume 1, so it appears that we will finally have an integral recording of the piano music by the man who was probably, after
Rachmaninoff, the second-most-important composer-pianist of the 20th century. Given that the series will amount to all of four discs, it’s stunning that it has taken this long. Not that others haven’t tried; I count as many as three previous runs at recording Dohnányi’s complete piano works, each being abandoned after two volumes. There were two CDs by Jén? Jandó for Koch Schwann, now long out of print; two CDs by Ilona Prunyi for Hungaroton, which apparently abandoned the project; and two CDs by different pianists, but labeled Volumes 1 and 2, on Naxos.
There may be reasonable explanations for the lack of a Dohnányi piano cycle to date. For one, he isn’t a big-name composer, and it’s possible that the CDs didn’t sell well. Hyperion is well positioned to overcome this problem, since the label has established a track record with Romantic and late-Romantic music in its extensive and highly successful series of piano concertos. Another reason might be the sheer technical difficulty of the music, leading some pianists not to make the effort to learn it. Again, Hyperion has the solution: Martin Roscoe. Roscoe has emerged as our generation’s leading exponent of Dohnányi’s piano music, having already made single CDs of his solo piano works and chamber music for ASV, and having contributed the CD of Dohnányi’s two piano concertos to the Hyperion series.
So it was with great anticipation that I began listening to a generous selection of Dohnányi’s solo piano music. The op. 11 Rhapsodies, though they can be played individually (and the composer himself recorded the second), are a true cycle: The minor-mode central section of No. 3 in C—the most frequently played of the set, and probably Dohnányi’s most popular piano piece—is a quotation from No. 2; and the middle section of No. 4, whose outer sections are based on
, is composed almost entirely of recalls of the first three. Composed just after the turn of the last century, when Dohnányi was only 25, these pieces nevertheless represent his fully mature style. They also call for a monster technique, which Roscoe has in spades. The strongest competition for this new version is, in fact, Roscoe’s older version on ASV; musically the two differ little, but Hyperion’s sound is fuller and the textures are clearer. Jandó, by comparison, gives short shrift to the expressive element in this music. Barry Snider, on a long-unavailable Pro Arte CD, may find more wit in No. 3 (in effect, the scherzo), but overall, Roscoe is tops.
(Winter Round Dances), subtitled “10 Bagatelles,” is a lighthearted, Schumann-influenced set composed in 1905 as a farewell to Dohnányi’s Viennese friends as he departed for a position at Berlin’s Hochschule für Musik. Each piece is dedicated to a different friend; one, “An Ada,” features 18 repetitions of the notes spelling the subject’s name, A-D-A; the coda of the Postlude spells out the word A-D-E, German for “goodbye.” The moods of the individual pieces vary widely, and like the Rhapsodies they are technically daunting, if highly idiomatic, piano music. Here Roscoe easily surpasses his nearest competitor, the competent but unspectacular László Baranyay on Hungaroton.
Of the shorter works, the
, a 1920 setting of a Hungarian Christmas song, is a little gem. The paraphrase of Delibes’s Waltz from
is a fine representative of the type of transcription made famous by Liszt and carried on by Rachmaninoff. Finally, the late
Three Singular Pieces
, written in 1951, find Dohnányi experimenting stylistically but still rather conservatively in his musical language; the first is whimsical, the third (“Perpetuum mobile”) a
tour de force
. Roscoe is outstanding throughout, leaving us with the happy thought that Hyperion’s series will not only cover everything, but likely leave the competition in the dust in the process.
Hyperion’s production—performances, sound, and booklet notes by James A. Grymes—is first-class throughout. This one makes my Want List.
FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
Works on This Recording
Winterreigen, Op. 13 by Ernö von Dohnányi
Martin Roscoe (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1905; Berlin, Germany
Pastorale for Piano by Ernö von Dohnányi
Martin Roscoe (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1920; Hungary
Featured Sound Samples
Winterreigen: No 3: An Ada
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