Notes and Editorial Reviews
Variations and Fugue on a Theme of E. G. Humoresques in the Form of a Suite. Valses nobles (after Schubert)
Martin Roscoe (pn)
HYPERION 67932 (79: 55)
Here, almost exactly a year after the release of Volume 1 (
35:5), is Volume 2 of Hyperion’s planned four-disc edition of the complete solo piano music of Ern? Dohnányi. This volume concentrates
on the music of the youthful Dohnányi, written in the decade between the composer’s 20th and 30th birthdays (1897–1907). The most attractive music here is the earliest: the
, op. 2. Here the young composer’s distinctive musical personality astonishingly emerges fully formed; together with the
, op. 11 (in Volume 1), these may be Dohnányi’s most compelling works for solo piano. Incredibly, there is no other version currently available in the U.S., although I can count at least three other recordings: Martin Roscoe’s 1993 ASV disc and a Koch CD by Jénö Jandó, both out of print, and a version by one Ladislav Fanzowitz on the Pavlik label, currently available only as an import. I have the earlier Roscoe recording and the Jandó, and the latter seems mundane by comparison; the principal difference between the two Roscoe versions (which differ in total timing by three seconds) is the stunning sound captured for Hyperion by producer Jeremy Hayes and engineer Ben Connellan.
Variations and Fugue on a Theme of E.G.
, op. 4, was also written in 1897; E.G. is Emma Gruber, a patroness, amateur pianist, and later the wife of Kodály. Here the previous version known to me is a Hungaroton CD by Ilona Prunyi, no longer available in the U.S. but still listed on mdt.co.uk. In any event, Roscoe plays more elegantly and stylishly, so the current recording again supersedes the earlier one; Prunyi’s disc is most valuable for several smaller works without opus numbers that she includes, pending a determination of how complete Roscoe’s “complete” collection will be.
Humoresken in Form einer Suite
, op. 17, is the latest work here; the title is somewhat misleading, as Dohnányi ingeniously exploits older compositional techniques in each. The opening work is a March over an ostinato bass; the second movement is a Toccata. The third,
Pavane from the 16th century with variations
, features one variation combining the theme contrapuntally with
, the song Brahms used so prominently at the climax of the
Academic Festival Overture
; another variation inverts the theme. The following Pastorale is a canon over a drone bass, and the closing piece is an Introduction and Fugue. Prunyi’s version of this set is still available; Jandó’s is not, but in any event Roscoe trumps both.
The disc concludes with one of Dohnányi’s transcriptions, that of Schubert’s
. This is old-style pianism in the Liszt-Rachmaninoff tradition: fluff, but fun fluff, particularly for pianists.
Roscoe plays all this music with stupendous technique and complete sympathy for Dohnányi’s style, and as I mentioned above, the recorded sound is superb. Enthusiastically recommended to all lovers of late-Romantic piano music. Now, Hyperion, let’s have Volumes 3 and 4!
FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
Works on This Recording
Pieces (4) for Piano, Op. 2 by Ernö von Dohnányi
Martin Roscoe (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1896-1897; Budapest, Hungary
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