Grand Sonata, Op. 37; Two Pieces, Op. 1; Capriccio in G flat; Six Pieces, Op. 21, etc
Peter Donohoe (piano)
Signum SIGCD 594 84:56 mins (2 discs)
Tchaikovsky’s Op. 37 Piano Sonata has generally been unlucky on disc, due largely to a tendency of pianists to hurl themselves into the fray with a passion, no doubt to conceal the work’s less than organic structure. Yet this invariably proves counterproductive, creating the impression of music that simply can’t sustain such superheated advocacy. Peter Donohoe, while never underplaying the Sonata’s moments of explosive rhetoric, finds a more poetic, Chopinesque poise, pointing up certain similarities with the Pole’s Ballades and B minor Sonata, and (especially in the Andante second movement) a Schumannesque fantasy. Instead of being rushed off its feet, the finale possesses a glorious, Lisztian integrity – Donohoe’s seductively rounded sonority in even the most densely chordal passages pays special dividends here, captured in luminous sound by Nick Parker and Mike Hatch.
For the rest of the album, Donohoe has selected pieces that in their enchanting variety and melodic candour leave one sharing his astonishment that Tchaikovsky’s solo piano music is hardly ever programmed. These include the outdoor playfulness of the ‘Humoresque’ from Op. 10, the soulful intensity of Aveu passioné, based on music from the initially discarded symphonic ballad Voyevoda, and the Op. 59 Dumka’s at times startling expressive contrasts. Even when Tchaikovsky’s Russianness becomes unmistakable, as in the first of the Op. 1 pieces and the at times dazzling Op. 21 Six Pieces on a Single Theme, Donohoe wisely leans more towards the cosmopolitan than overplaying the nationalist card.