Dohnanyi: Suite in F sharp minor; Variations on a Nursery Theme; The Veil of Pierrette (excerpts)

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COMPOSERS: Dohnanyi
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Suite in F sharp minor; Variations on a Nursery Theme; The Veil of Pierrette (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Howard Shelley (piano); BBC Philharmonic/Matthias Bamert
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9733
This is a highly entertaining disc. Dohnanyi had a sure gift for passionate flowing melody – the kind that is difficult to hum but which comes to brilliant life when clothed in ravishing harmonies and vibrant orchestral colours. Bamert and the BBC Philharmonic give it the full treatment, particularly in the Suite op.19: wonderful woodwind articulation and shimmering brass contribute to a resplendent performance which make this essentially rather ephemeral music really worth listening to.

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The nursery variations are famous for their cavalier treatment of Twinkle twinkle little star, whose quintessentially bland theme is little more than a launching pad for some devilish melodic and harmonic excursions by pianist and orchestra. Bamert relishes the parody, thundering out the pompous introduction so that the theme’s first tentative appearance on the piano seems even more incongruous. There is a great sense of fun here, both from orchestra and soloist Howard Shelley, justifying Dohnanyi’s claim that this music was “for the enjoyment of humorous people and the annoyance of others.”

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With typical thoroughness Chandos has found three hitherto unrecorded movements from the Veil of Peirrette to add to the brilliant Straussian pastiche of the Wedding Waltz. These, too, are fun but for my part I shall often return to this disc for the Suite in F sharp minor, whose rich seam of passion lingers in the memory long after the last bar has faded.