WORKS: Variations & Fugue on a Theme by EG; Passacaglia in E flat minor; Four Piano Pieces
PERFORMER: Annette Servadei (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CCD-1064 DDD
In the first half of this century, Erno´´ Dohnányi could be described as the most influential and important musician in Hungary, at least in an official sense. He was not only a composer, pianist and conductor, but held some of the top administrative jobs. Thirty-five years after his death, he’s best remembered for his Variations on a Nursery Tune, which he himself recorded in London in 1931, and four solo piano Rhapsodies.
This disc collects works that Dohnányi wrote between the ages of 19 and 21. They are all, absolutely, unashamedly, in the style of Brahms. It’s solid, well-made music with a big heart and there’s no attempt to be original. The Four Piano Pieces, Op. 2, are bigger-boned than their individual titles imply, and both the Intermezzi are more extrovert than most of Brahms’s.
Annette Servadei made her mark in the CD catalogue by recording Sibelius’s complete piano music. She plays with warmth, and I enjoyed getting carried along by unfamiliar pieces in a familiar musical language. But it’s also clear that Servadei could do a lot more with them, shape things more decisively, project more character. Still, with the big set of variations and Passacaglia she has a clear field – there’s no other recording available. The Op. 2 pieces are included on a good Martin Roscoe disc which also has the Rhapsodies. Adrian Jack