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Mendelssohn: Songs Without Words, Vol. 2 (Donohoe)

Peter Donohoe (piano) (Chandos)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Songs Without Words, Vol. 2: selection, plus Variations sérieuses in D minor, Op. 54; Fantasia on ‘The Last Rose of Summer’, Op. 15; A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Scherzo
Peter Donohoe (piano)
Chandos CHAN 20267   81:26 mins


Although Mendelssohn published his famous Songs Without Words over the years in books of six pieces each, Peter Donohoe prefers to make his own selection from the complete range. They are pieces that may have been aimed at the domestic market, but they’re by no means easy to play. One of the defining characteristics of Mendelssohn’s style is the manner in which each reprise of a melody or phrase overlaps with what has gone before, so that the music sounds seamless. This is something Donohoe grasps very well, and he produces some beautiful playing, especially in the more lyrical and intimate numbers. Elsewhere he can be a touch heavy, as he is, for instance, in the delicate scherzo-like Op. 102 No. 3, which has too many accents; or in Op. 30 No. 5, with its murmuring bass line.

Donohoe gives a fine performance of the Variations sérieuses, and he makes a good case for the curious Last Rose of Summer Fantasy. But the highlight of the album is his dazzling account of the Midsummer Night’s Dream scherzo in Rachmaninov’s transcription: not quite as fast as Rachmaninov himself on his famous recording, and presumably not done in a single take, but breathtaking nevertheless.


Misha Donat