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Pejačević: Symphony; Piano Concerto

Peter Donohoe (piano); BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo (Chandos)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Symphony; Piano Concerto*
*Peter Donohoe (piano); BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
Chandos CHSA 5299 (CD/SACD)   70:57 mins


It’s hardly surprising that the colourful life story of Croatian composer Dora Pejačević should have been fictionalised in a 1993 movie. Born in 1885 into an influential aristocratic family, Pejačević strongly rebelled against her background, becoming a fervent socialist and serving as an auxiliary nurse during World War I. Developing a strong passion for music at an early age, she studied with a number of prominent musicians in Germany, and was well on the way to establishing a prominent position in musical life during the 1920s when she died at the premature age of 38.

Pejačević’s three-movement Piano Concerto, effectively the first significant work of that genre by any Croatian composer, boasts attractive melodies, warmly lush orchestration and technically demanding piano writing. Peter Donohoe revels in its manifold opportunities for virtuosic display, but also brings poetry and requisite tenderness to the beautifully lyrical writing in the slow movement.

The Symphony is even more impressive in extending Pejačević’s range of expression with highly chromatic writing, most notably in the dissonant Introduction to the first movement, and some evocative solo woodwind passages in the ensuing Andante sostenuto. Occasionally, Pejačević’s tendency to develop material through sequential repetition gets the better of her, but there is sufficient interest and variety in all four movements for this not to become a serious hindrance. Furthermore, Sakari Omaro and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, supported by Chandos’s customary warm engineering, clearly believe in the work and deliver an extremely compelling performance.

Erik Levi

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