DOHNANYI: The Complete Solo Piano Music, Vol. 3 = Ruralia Hungarica, Op. 32a; Variations on a Hungarian Folksong, Op. 29; Three Pieces, Op. 23; Gavotte and Musette; Naila Waltz; Two Waltzes of Johann Strauss – Martin Roscoe, p. – Hyperion CDA 68033, 79:08 (3/10/15) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
The third volume in Hyperion’s four-part survey of the complete solo piano music of Erno Dohnanyi focuses on music from the period, 1898-1928, when the composer had secured his international position as a composer-pianist. The titles of the largest works here, Ruralia hungarica and the Variations on a Hungarian Folksong, mask in their nationalistic ostentation the skill of a true master of piano composition.
Martin Roscoe (rec. 2-5 April 2014) opens with Dohnanyi’s 1923-1924 suite Ruralia Hungarica, based on authentic Hungarian folksongs, chosen from a volume from Transylvania (which had been part of Hungary until ceded to Romania in 1920), some 150, that had been collected by Kodály and Bartók and also published as part of the Budapest’s fiftieth-anniversay celebrations. The simple folk song that commences the set yields to a muscular csardas, a rondo which incorporates four folk tunes into its aggression. Roscoe then imparts haunted colors to a melancholy, free-rhythm, gypsy intermezzo with many liquid effects. The pungent fourth episode, jazzy and syncopated, derives from a soldier’s song. The fifth section, marked Allegro grazioso, depicts a children’s game set in a lyrical harmonization that delicately starts and stops. The introspective Lisztian sixth movement sets the song, “I am a motherless orphan,” modulating to a dramatically fervent middle section in gypsy, cimbalom sonorities. The last movement, Molto vivace, strikes up an Italian tarantella based on a kuruc tune from the seventeenth century. Roscoe’s bravura performance here qualifies him a virtuoso thoroughly entitled to record the complete Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies.
Dohnanyi’s 1917 Variations on a Hungarian Folksong represents his first excursion into Hungarian nationalism, announcing, like Brahms, his affinity for the theme and variations format. At first, Dohnanyi accentuates the melodic, sensuous character of the melody, invoking the Liszt style of cimbalom sonority. The rhythmic and harmonic accents become more intricate, echoing aspects of late Chopin and experimental Liszt. The bell sounds in both hands define the fifth variation. The next variation clearly beckons to a Chopin etude from his Op. 10 with a resonance close to Brahms. The use of rubato permeates virtually every piece, especially the tranquil coda.
Dohnanyi composed his Three Pieces in 1912, and the works bear, simultaneously, a nationalist and Schumann-like fervor. The Aria: Con moto allows Roscoe to display his liquid triplets. Valse impromptu opens with the identical four notes as the Aria, but its inspiration would appear to come from the Liszt model of a ternary waltz. Rapid staccato figures mark the final piece, a Capriccio: Vivace in A Minor. Its motivic borrowings from the earlier pieces unify the whole in thoroughly lyric, approachable terms.
Though composed in 1898, the Gavotte and Musette appeared in 1905. Like Richard Strauss, Dohnanyi often became fascinated with olden styles of musical expression. His duple meter Gavotte moves in four-bar phrases. A drone bass opens the Musette, which expands so as to embrace the Gavotte to make a large form.
The Naila Waltz, after Leo Delibes (1897), saw the published light of day in 1916. Both Dohnanyi and his star pupil Edward Kilenyi used to sport the work as an encore. Like the ensuing waltzes from operettas (1928) by Johann Strauss – Schatzwalzer and Du und Du – the Liszt method of high filigree and fanciful bravura mark the treatment to allow the pianist the utmost freedom of digital invention.