Nataša Veljković performs piano works by Pejačević

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COMPOSERS: Dora Pejačević
LABELS: CPO
ALBUM TITLE: Pejačević
WORKS: Complete piano works
PERFORMER: Nataša Veljković
CATALOGUE NO: CPO 555 003-2

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Is a complete works disc the best way to showcase Croatian composer Dora Pejačević (1885-1923)? Certainly her piano pieces are well served by Nataša Veljković’s warmly sensitive playing in this final instalment of CPO’s valuable series dedicated to her music. But after two discs of, in the main, miniatures in a broadly similar idiom – unlike Ravel, PejaΩevi´c doesn’t reinvent the wheel with each piano piece – I concluded it’s best to treat it as a library to dip into rather than a programme to listen to in one go.

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But there are plenty of highlights from which to choose. Pejačević wasn’t a professional pianist, but 53 of her 57 finished pieces include the piano – and she clearly knew how to write well for it. There’s the lyrical Schubert-meets-Chopin Berceuse, for instance, played with cool serenity by Veljković or the Schumannesque Blumenleben, whose intimate qualities draw the listener in. Pejačević conjures a flighty butterfly with humour in ‘Papillon’ (one of the Four Klavierstücke, Op. 32), and captures a still, timeless quality in ‘Klage’ (from the Six Fantasiestücke, Op. 17). And in the Sonata Op. 36, in the Lisztian key of B minor, PejaΩevi´c explores larger-scale forms. Here Veljković could have found more energy, just as more impetuosity would have suited the A flat Sonata, Op. 57, but the cool delicacy with which she plays the Nocturne Op. 50/2 weaves a hypnotic magic. Rebecca Franks