Dohnányi: Complete solo piano music, Vol. 3

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COMPOSERS: Dohnanyi
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Complete solo piano music, Vol. 3: Ruralia hungarica; Variations on a Hungarian Folksong, Op. 29; Three Pieces, Op. 23; Gavotte and Musette in B flat; Naila Waltz (after Delibes); J Strauss II: Schatz waltz (arr. Dohnányi); Du und Du waltz, Op. 367 (arr. Dohnányi)
PERFORMER: Martin Roscoe (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 68033

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The most substantial item in this third volume of Martin Roscoe’s enterprising survey of Erno˝ Dohnányi’s piano music is undoubtedly the suite Ruralia Hungarica. Dating from the 1920s, a period when the composer was adopting a more consciously nationalist idiom, the main thematic material in its seven movements draws upon a collection of Hungarian and Transylvanian folksongs that had recently been transcribed by his compatriots Bartók and Kodály. It’s an enormously attractive work, by turns exhilarating, as in the obsessive rhythms of the Presto second movement, and rhapsodic, as in the warmly atmospheric melismatic patterns of the Adagio sixth movement. Roscoe relishes these contrasts in mood with playing that is both exuberant and expressive.

Similar qualities abound in Roscoe’s masterly performances of the 1917 Variations on a Hungarian Folksong and the Three Pieces Op. 23 composed five years earlier. In this latter work, Dohnányi reverts to a more consciously Germanic style, opening the set with a beautiful Aria that owes much to Schumann and closing it with a barnstorming Capriccio played here with brilliant technical precision.

After the charming neo-Baroque elegance of the Gavotte and Musette, there are more fireworks in a sequence of transcriptions of works by Delibes and Johann Strauss II. Although Dohnányi’s arrangement of themes from the operetta Die Fledermaus doesn’t quite emulate the outrageous virtuosity of Leopold Godowsky’s famous Symphonic Metamorphosis, it is nonetheless full of ingenious touches which are projected here by Roscoe with a winning mixture of charisma and humour.

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Erik Levi