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Ernő DOHNÁNYI (1877-1960)
Complete Solo Piano Music - Volume 3
Ruralia hungarica Op. 32a (1923-24) [28:27]
Variations on a Hungarian Folksong Op. 29 (1917) [11:05]
Three Pieces Op. 23 (1912) [12:21]
Gavotte and Musette in B flat (1898) [4:41]
Naila Waltz (Delibes arr. Dohnányi) (1897) [8:01]
Schatzwalzer (Op. 418) (Johann Strauss arr. Dohnányi) (1928) [7:43]
Du und Du (Op. 367) (Johann Strauss arr. Dohnányi) (1928) [6:48]
Martin Roscoe (piano)
rec. Potton Hall, Dunwich, 3-5 April 2014
HYPERION CDA68033 [79:08]

This third volume in Martin Roscoe’s project to record the complete piano music of Dohnányi contains two of the composer’s major works and some pleasant, delightful miniatures. Overall, having listened through, there is really only one conclusion to be drawn: Dohnányi was a master of his art and he has been unduly neglected. I hope that the efforts of Mr. Roscoe and Hyperion will give the composer some richly deserved exposure.

Ruralia hungarica and the Variations on a Hungarian Folksong are superb works and Martin Roscoe is clearly completely inside the composer’s idiom. It’s really hard to understand why this music isn’t in the mainstream piano repertoire. It’s also very surprising that such overtly nationalistic music hasn’t placed the composer firmly alongside Bartók and Kodály in the pantheon of great Hungarians. There’s far more to him than just the hugely entertaining Variations on a Nursery Tune.

Ruralia hungarica is in essence a suite of seven movements, all of them attractive, all of them varied and all of them steeped in the traditional music of Hungary. Indeed, the source material here is drawn from his country’s folksongs. The fast pieces in the set are sparkling virtuoso affairs but these are interspersed with some charming and tender slow movements that give the work a satisfying feeling of completeness. The rhythmic Hungarian gypsy style is never very far away.

The Variations on a Hungarian Theme is less overtly nationalistic. The theme itself is stated very simply and this is followed by ten variations and a gentle coda. Variations 6 to 9 demand a high level of virtuosity and that’s exactly what they get here. This is a really cracking work and it was good to make its acquaintance. The first of the Three Pieces is a beautiful Aria in the style of Schumann. There follows a salon-style waltz and a stupendous Capriccio, thrown off with clarity and panache. The rest of the programme is devoted to what can only be described as bon-bons or maybe encore pieces. These showcase the composer in his more entertaining mode.

Martin Roscoe is brilliant throughout. Rhythms are crisp, articulation faultless and he knows exactly when to pull back and let the lyrical passages speak for themselves. It’s a complete joy. The recording itself is clear with plenty of air around it but perhaps a little bit too distant for my taste. The disc needs to played at quite a high level to get the best out of it but even then the bass is lightweight. In summary, this is musically faultless and the recording is good rather than outstanding. It also offers great value with a playing time of 79 minutes.

John Whitmore