Dohnányi: The Complete Solo Piano Music, Vol. 2

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COMPOSERS: Dohnanyi
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Dohnányi: The Complete Solo Piano Music, Vol. 2
WORKS: Four Piano Pieces, Op. 2; Variations and Fugue on a theme of EG, Op. 4; Humoresques in the form of a suite, Op. 17; Valses Nobles (after Schubert)
PERFORMER: Martin Roscoe (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67932

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In the first volume of this fascinating survey, Martin Roscoe devised a programme that incorporates music from different periods in Dohnányi’s career. By contrast, much of the present disc focuses on his earlier more derivative works. Brahms is a strikingly powerful influence on the Four Piano Pieces Op. 2, composed while Dohnányi was still a student at the Hungarian Royal Academy of Music in late 1890s. Yet despite his obvious indebtedness to the German master, Dohnányi demonstrates considerable mastery of this style; in the concluding Capriccio he creates a brilliant showpiece with memorable thematic ideas that ought to be much better known.

The Four Pieces pay obvious homage to Brahms’s late piano works, and the 1897 Variations and Fugue on a theme of EG is surely modelled on the older composer’s Handel Variations. You can’t help but be impressed by Dohnányi’s compositional assuredness and the imaginative ways in which he transforms the simple minuet theme. The concluding Fugue is a tour de force of contrapuntal ingenuity.

By the time Dohnányi composed the Humoresques in the form of a suite, towards the end of the first decade of the 20th century, his idiom had attained greater individuality. His allusions to music of the past, including a Renaissance dance and a prelude by JS Bach, are cleverly embedded into the musical fabric. Like all the works on this warmly recorded release, it is performed here with consummate technical mastery and musical insight.

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Erik Levi