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Dora Pejacevic: Chamber Works

Pejacevic / Triendl / Quatuor Sine Nomine
Release Date: 02/26/2013 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777421   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Dora Pejacevic
Performer:  Oliver Triendl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sine Nomine String Quartet
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 31 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Pejacevic Piano Quintet in b, Op. 40. String Quartet in C, Op. 58. Piano Quartet in d, Op. 25. Impromptu, Op. 9 Sine Nomine Str Qrt; Oliver Triendl (pn) CPO 777421 (2 CDs: 90: 54)

It has been just a little over a year-and-a-half since CPO introduced us to Dora Pejacevic (1885–1923), a Read more late-Romantic, Croatian composer, with a recording of her Symphony in F#-Minor (see Fanfare 35:2). That was followed in the very next issue (35:3) by a second CPO release of a Piano Trio and a Cello Sonata by pejacevic. Then, as recently as 36:3, there appeared on the same label a disc of the composer’s songs, reviewed very favorably by Henry Fogel. By now, pejacevic is no longer an unfamiliar name or a novelty, and here, once again from CPO, comes this time a two-disc set adding immeasurably to our knowledge of her chamber music output.

It’s tempting to draw certain parallels between Pejacevic and the French female composer, Louise Farrenc (1804–1875). Though she died 10 years before Pejacevic was born, and wrote music in a style strongly suggestive of Mendelssohn, Farrenc, like pejacevic, was an unusual case among women composers of the period. Both donned the britches reserved for their menfolk—large-scale symphonic, orchestral, and chamber works, and they both proved themselves quite adept at competing with the boys in the same game and on the same playing field.

The B-Minor Piano Quintet occupied Pejacevic from 1915 to 1918. You could say that for its time it’s a fairly conservative work with roots extending well back into the 19th century. But the same could be said of a lot of romantic-styled music still being written into the first and second decades of the 20th century. The quintet is a big work, not only in size—33 minutes—but in boldness of gesture and discourse. Echoes of Brahms ripple through the first movement as Pejacevic revels in the B-Minor-ness of the thing. It’s eruptive and tragic in cast. But occasional flashes of more contemporary lightning illuminate the score.

It’s hard to know exactly what influences Pejacevic was exposed to, but she did receive formal training in Dresden and Munich, and from 1918 on, she traveled extensively in Europe, visiting Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. My guess is that during her studies in Munich around 1907 she would have heard some of the early chamber works by Richard Strauss, particularly his C-Minor Piano Quartet, op. 13. Whether she might also have heard Fauré’s C-Minor Piano Quartet, op. 15, or his D-Minor Piano Quintet, op. 89, it’s impossible to say, but there’s definitely more than a whiff of the French composer’s harmonic and rhythmic fluidity in Pejacevic ’s quintet.

The C-Major String Quartet dates from 1922, and in the time that elapsed between it and completion of the earlier 1918 quintet, musically speaking, Pejacevic has traveled the equivalent of a lightyear or more. Other than the F#-Minor Symphony, which dates from just about the same time as the quintet, it would be really interesting to hear some of the composer’s transitional works that fill in the gap between the quintet and the quartet, for by 1922 Pejacevic ’s style is largely transformed.

Again, it’s really hard to know the composers and music she came into contact with—there’s no mention in the notes about travel to France or a French connection—but this quartet gives off a strong French scent; and I’m not talking about the obvious Debussy and Ravel brands, but rather the almost unmistakable imprint of Vincent d’Indy’s D-Major Quartet, op. 35, of 1890. But another element makes itself felt in Pejacevic ’s quartet as well, and that is the ethno-musical harmonies and rhythms of Croatian folk song and dance, which, at times, sound not all that distantly removed from the Hungarian and Transylvanian sources drawn upon by Bartók.

Setting the calendar back to 1908 and Pejacevic’s earliest chamber work, we come to the Piano Quartet in D Minor, op. 25. Brahms is part sire to this work, but to continue the analogy, it was impregnated more than once, so multiple fathers are responsible for child support. In some of the climactic cadences, the paternity test detects sperm from Tchaikovsky’s A-Minor Piano Trio, as well as from Saint-Saëns’s Bb-Major Piano Quartet, op. 41—strong genetic stock, no doubt, but the question is, did Pejacevic herself know who the daddy was? It’s easy, in retrospect, to say that a given piece of music bears resemblances to this or that written previously by someone else. But in Pejacevic’s case, at least, we can’t really say what she knew or when she knew it.

Her bio tells us that she was essentially a private person, somewhat of a loner, actually, who was uncomfortable in the company of the aristocratic social milieu into which she was born. Many details of her short life are still not known, including the circumstances of her death. One source claims she wrote a suicide note to her husband when she discovered she was with child; another source claims she died giving birth to the child.

Oliver Triendl is one of CPO’s most reliable pianists, but the Sine Nomine Quartet hasn’t been heard from in a long time, at least not by me. My last encounter with these fine Swiss players was in Fanfare 32:3 when I reviewed the ensemble’s release of string quartets by Goldmark. Prior to that, the Sine Nomine Quartet made my 2006 Want List for its recordings of Beethoven’s middle quartets, a set which, sadly, was never followed up with the early and late quartets. Be that as it may, with Triendl and the Sine Nomine Quartet as her advocates, Dora Pejacevic is in the very best of hands.

Given that these works are only about 10 minutes too long to fit on a single CD and therefore require two discs, I’d have expected to see a set of 91 minutes playing time being sold as a twofer or at least a reduced price. But such seems not to be the case; Amazon is selling it as two full-priced discs for $34.99, while CD Universe has knocked the price down to $30 flat.

The more of Pejacevic’s music that becomes known the more it becomes clear that hers was a significant talent and that her contributions to a still viable romantic tradition in the first two decades of the 20th century are well worth hearing. Recommended.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Piano Quintet in B minor, Op. 40 by Dora Pejacevic
Performer:  Oliver Triendl (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sine Nomine String Quartet
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1916-1918 
Venue:  Alte Kirche Boswil (CH) 
Length: 33 Minutes 10 Secs. 
String Quartet in C major, Op. 58 by Dora Pejacevic
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sine Nomine String Quartet
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1922 
Venue:  Alte Kirche Boswil (CH) 
Length: 32 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Piano Quartet in D minor, Op. 25 by Dora Pejacevic
Performer:  Oliver Triendl (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sine Nomine String Quartet
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1908 
Venue:  Alte Kirche Boswil (CH) 
Length: 20 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Impromptu, for violin, viola, cello & piano, Op. 9b by Dora Pejacevic
Performer:  Oliver Triendl (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sine Nomine String Quartet
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1903 
Venue:  Alte Kirche Boswil (CH) 
Length: 3 Minutes 41 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Outstanding Chamber Music Collection April 1, 2019 By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews "With this magnificent recording, we have yet another chamber music gem from CPO, the specialist in introducing the works of forgotten or overlooked composers of the past to the modern classical music world. Dora Pejacevic is a name undoubtedly unfamiliar to most Arkivmusic followers, but you can probably guess what I'm about to suggest. Specifically, the shining qualities of the 3 major chamber works (and one short early 'filler' piece) on this 2-disk set mark her as a composer fully meriting exposure and acclaim. Pejacevic was Croatian (born in Hungary) and her relatively short life (1885-1923)coincided with tumultuous socio-political developments in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, i.e., its fragmentation and ultimate demise in World War 1. Yet despite this apocalyptic background, what becomes obvious to the listener is Pejacevic's firm compositional grip on and use of the residues of the great musical traditions of late 19th century Europe. Her writing was (and is) generally conservatively structured and sophisticated in expressive motifs, as evidenced by the high quality of her String Quartet, Piano Quartet, and Piano Quintet, the 3 principal compositions on this collection. I suggest that the first time listener start with Disk #2, with the String Quartet followed by the Piano Quartet. In my view, following this sequence is somewhat akin to attending a high quality orchestral concert- great introductory overture (the String Quartet), then a fine concerto (Piano Quartet), both setting the stage for a dramatic post-intermission symphony (the glorious, intense Piano Quintet on Disk #1). The performance of these compositions is of the highest quality, as Switzerland's Sine Nomine Quartet and German pianist Oliver Triendl are simply outstanding. Further, it hardly needs observing that the technical engineering of this recording is flawless (after all, this is CPO!). Therefore, even if the name of Dora Pejacevic doesn't instantly register with you, be assured of a truly remarkable chamber music program here, compliments of CPO, the Sine Nomine Quartet, and Oliver Triendl. Great music, which I wholeheartedly recommend." Report Abuse
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