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Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Solo Piano Works
Two Pieces, op. 1: no. 1, Scherzo a la Russe (1867); no. 2 Impromptu (1863-5) [12:32]
Capriccio in G flat major, op. 8 (1870) [5:25]
Six morceaux, composés sur un seul thème, op. 21 (1873) [21:45].
Aveu Passionné, op. posth. (?1892) [3:01]
Sonata No. 2 in G major, op.37 (1878) [31:01]
Humoresque, op. 10 no. 2 (1871-2) [2:48]
Dumka, op. 59 (1886) [8:20]
Peter Donohoe (piano)
rec. Britten Studio, Snape Maltings, Suffolk, 2018.
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD594 [39:41 + 45:10]

Donohoe begins his survey at the very beginning: opus 1. Two Pieces, the first, Scherzo á la Russe, should come with a health warning. Its theme to start with is presented in neat, cheery fashion: first in two-part, then three-part counterpoint. It’s a Ukrainian song which Tchaikovsky earlier used as the Allegro con moto theme in his String Quartet (movement) in B flat. In the piano version, as soon as we get to four parts (CD 1, tr. 1, 0:26) the theme has got roughed up, is soon punctuated by ff yells and a glorious descending descant figure (0:39) on the one hand and growling bass version of the theme (0:57) on the other, all preparation for a triumphant statement of it, now from Donohoe rather crunchingly sturdy and as a result somewhat alarming in its bonhomie. A second section (1:26) brings soft, smooth, restful, maybe visionary musing, but after a repeat of two phrases this takes on a louder, more threatening manner. Think police interrogation and good cop and bad cop routine. The good cop returns: relief. The bad cop returns and seems about to throw a fit: terror. Now (3:00) you remember this is a scherzo because the theme returns jocularly in the left hand while the right makes rude gestures then quickly takes over the theme. Before too long (4:25) the knees-up approaches frenzy with the right hand pushed up an octave. Then Tchaikovsky throws in a quasi-Adagio (4:43) dissecting the theme to its essence before a Presto coda (5:20) of stomping foundation sees an originally quite upright theme treated with growing irreverence and seems to lurch drunkenly forward. Is this the meaning of á la Russe? What is fully revealed is Tchaikovsky the showman and creator of euphoric dance. A tremendous and frightening debut and terrific performance by Donohoe.

Professor Marina Frolova-Walker’s helpful booklet notes point out the second op. 1 piece, an Impromptu in E flat minor, was mistakenly paired with the Scherzo by the publisher and Tchaikovsky, regarding it a student work, wasn’t pleased. Structurally it’s more straightforward with an opening and closing Allegro furioso, heavyweight stuff from Donohoe, a maelstrom of excitement and fear, but can you easily live with a dominant three-quaver triplet rhythm with that plus a quaver making a spasmodic, emphatic punctuation point? Donohoe doesn’t spare us. But then there’s an Andante molto espressivo centre whose theme starts in the baritone register then moves to the soprano which is then trailed by the mezzo (i.e. high baritone) register, so what we actually have here is a love duet which grows ever sunnier and more rhapsodic. Donohoe’s playing and the Britten Studio small concert hall acoustic make this all glow as all its elements are clear and savoured. I’m uncertain what Frolova-Walker terms the ‘harp-like accompaniment’ should be quite so strong, especially the descending glissandi of semiquavers which punctuate the repeat. Would, beyond student days, Tchaikovsky have considered ‘less is more?’ At least Donohoe ensures they don’t overmuch obscure the melodic line. But they are a presence: I try thinking of them as petals falling over the lovers during their tryst. The return of the opening section now seems to have the urgency of racing to disaster and then a quasi Adagio coda brings us those three quaver triplets now followed by a minim, thus closer to the ‘fate motif’ of Beethoven’s fifth symphony, as the dull thud of a funeral cortège. Only their final, very soft appearance rises an octave, goes into the major and resolves. Is this merciful salvation, the lovers reunited?

Often stabilized by an introductory perfect cadence in the left hand, the Capriccio in G flat major, op. 8 trips along in inconsequential but jolly fashion until a theme leaps out of the running semiquavers that could be described as capricious. The second section (tr. 3, 1:08) is more urgent with a fretting tune in the baritone register in the left hand, while the right becomes more frivolous in response, yet also seems to be the main agent in creating a more positive climax. The reward is a third section, Andante molto espressivo (1:43), a smoochy mezzo tune with harp-like accompaniment better controlled, i.e. more subservient, than in op. 1 no. 2, but still manages to float into the stratosphere at the end of every strain. For the repeat (3:06) Tchaikovsky can’t resist mucking about with the accompaniment in constant pairs of semiquavers, warning the pianist to marcato la melodia, which Donohoe does well. The accompaniment gradually becomes sufficiently delicate to outlast the melody to sweep the whole vision away. The fourth section (3:54) returns the second’s tune now dropped a bit in pitch, which makes it more resolute than fretting, and the climax still more positive with a coda (4:54) of confident left-hand descents nicely pointed by Donohoe to seal a stirring, theatrical close. A fun piece.

Six pieces composed on a single theme, op. 21 is a bit of a brain-teaser. It might be better titled ‘composed around’ because aspects of the theme are used to enhance the character every distinctive piece requires. And we don’t really get the theme stated as such, e.g. as in the Enigma variations. I suppose Tchaikovsky’s Piece 1, Prelude in B major, is the closest we get to theme statement, except the composition here is in preludial mode, in this case obsessed with embellishment, so the theme is decked out with grace notes. Also, the marking Allegro moderato is at the heart of the difficulty: the theme wants to power forth at Allegro, yet is held back by the reverie of contemplation. As Donohoe presents it, there’s an attractive stateliness about it, capable of apparently endless reflection. Its development (tr. 4, 0:31) is somewhat arduous but achieves a kind of climax, metamorphosis if you like, through the right hand in upper register. The beginning is then reprised but a meno mosso section (1:31) introduces more tortuous consideration until an Adagio close (1:47) spaces out the notes of the penultimate chord which is then resolved, even though the resolution is a cop-out.

I compare the Russian pianist Mikhail Pletnev, recorded in 1994 (Erato 4820552, download only). Timing at 2:18 to Donohoe’s 2:01, he gives more attention to the moderato element of the marking, which for me makes the piece’s sections more distinct and expressive. Pletnev’s opening is more relaxed, but with more poise too at the end of the third phrase which concludes the opening statement. Then his development is contrasted more in being swifter and more dramatic, making more notable the crotchets’ descent in the left-hand echoing that earlier in the right (0:51 and 0:42 in Donohoe).

Piece 2, Fugue in G sharp minor (tr. 5), you can argue is the theme in its purest form when heard at the outset as a single ‘soprano’ voice, but at 0:11 the ‘baritone’ enters, at 0:20 the ‘tenor’ and at 0:28 the ‘bass’. Thereafter the concentration is on the interaction of all four voices, the fugue as an entity more important than its thematic parts. Donohoe plays this with discipline, clarity and beauty, but perhaps too dispassionately. It’s a novelty to hear Tchaikovsky composing in strict fugue. But there’s a passage from 2:18 near the end, marked f with semiquavers and quavers in the soprano and mezzo all accented, which I feel should make more impact than Donohoe does, and he does make more for the f entry of the tenor and bass which joins it (2:21), well justified in that this is the statement of the theme and the two parts are doubled in octaves. The coda (2:37), p, provides a precis of the original entries then, pp, a reverent ‘Amen’ (2:48). Pletnev, timing at 3:30 to Donohoe’s 3:00, gives himself a little more space to advantage, allowing a more relaxed, cool yet airy exploration with no sense of the pulse dictated, so you feel he’s more interested in how the melody flowers in the different voices than the technique in combining them. Near the end he does bring more weight to those soprano and mezzo accents and is both more thunderous when the tenor and bass enter and more dramatic in his softer coda.

Expect the unexpected in Piece 3, Impromptu in C sharp minor (tr. 6), but don’t expect to spot the theme in this Allegro molto bullish burst of energy in quaver triplets, a sudden contrast of a rhetorical cadence and diminuendo (0:10), a ritenuto change of heart and becalming (0:18) leading to a Molto meno mosso happy centre and not that much molto with Donohoe as he keeps a spring in his step from the dotted quavers and syncopation. Back to the start, then a cadenza of demisemiquavers, a variant of the phrase first after the rhetorical cadence and now (1:19) sounds like, or is played by Donohoe as, a pure jazz riff and a more reflective descent of quavers in triplets to basso profundo C sharp. At 2:17 against Donohoe’s 1:49, Pletnev is fascinatingly a deal slower. He begins at around Allegretto, teasing the melody out more and in this jazzier, and the rhetorical material is then more closely linked with the rest. Donohoe’s meno mosso section takes 0:31, whereas Pletnev’s takes 0:49 and is more nuanced and wistful, but less happy.

Piece 4, Funeral March in A flat minor (tr. 7), brings us back to the opening of the theme, as in Piece 1 good for endless sequences. A Moderato march, from Donohoe flowing with smooth resignation, a march in a daze, but flecked with occasional starker confrontations of the tragedy (e.g. 0:16). A second phase, with the left hand echoing the right (from 0:38) introduces more turbulence, perhaps a conflict of thoughts in this situation. A third phase (1:06) has the theme in the left hand with now, as played by Donohoe, jaunty offbeat quavers and semiquavers above, perhaps a dance of death. A fourth phase (1:40) seems an escape to another world of shimmering high tessitura twirling right hand semi or demisemiquavers, maybe full regression to happy memories. Yet it proves more than that: a theme slowly gaining substance and fervour, gradually in the left and then with right hand, powered forth at fff (2:41) into a broad statement and finally revealed (2:57) as the Dies irae plainchant. So, this is a celebration of judgement. The opening material returns, suitably subdued, even the jaunty dance tempered but, so you will not forget, an inescapable quotation of the Dies irae in the left hand (5:07) too. All in all, a tremendous performance by Donohoe. Pletnev, timing at 6:45 to Donohoe’s 5:37, takes a considerably more Moderato approach. His opening is smooth yet not altogether deadpan as dynamic contrasts show heightened awareness, as with Donohoe, when momentarily there’s a recognition of tragedy. Pletnev’s second phase echoes have a more dancing, getting involved in the ceremony, feel. However, he treats the third phase as simply a variation, not a gaudy development or critique, as he emphasises the left hand and relatively suppresses the right. Pletnev’s fourth phase also starts lighter than Donohoe’s, his right hand almost offering snowflakes, but his gathering of melody and increase in dynamic are well controlled to a fiery climax and clear Dies irae quotation. His return to the opening seems grimmer and there’s a spooky aura to his final soft Dies irae reminder.

Piece 5, Mazurka in A flat minor (tr. 8) features the start of the theme, familiar by now, but in an Allegro moderato to which Donohoe brings more of a swing and an alluring descent to close the first phrase. I find it quite erotic and with a sleight-of-hand feel. By the time the more animated and syncopated second part kicks in (0:22) you think castanets should be in play and the focus on dance manoeuvres has buried the theme. A brighter central section (1:13) offers an alternative, more open manner, or is this just another face? I’d say yes, because it then goes into a showy dance in upper register. Pletnev, timing at 4:32 to Donohoe’s 4:07 seems more present and dramatized, partly because he makes more of the dynamic contrasts. A soft opening, more furtive, then the tricksy rhythms suggest a wide boy, or maybe just a celebration of rhythm. You notice his more markedly soft opening for the central section too and, as he gives this more space, a ‘promised land’ feel to the apexes of the melody and then frolicsome demisemiquavers in triplets. In the repeats of the first strain Pletnev makes more of the left-hand chords (1:25 and 2:01 in Donohoe), so it seems a folksy dance and his trip next to the upper register really sparkles.

Piece 6, the last one, is a Scherzo in A flat major (tr. 9), a catchy, sparky metamorphosis of the theme, staccato with a fanfare quality to its start and accented syncopation. It and Donohoe get wilder and more abandoned as the piece progresses. Second time around it works up to a grand, high tessitura whoopee. There’s a grazioso change of mood (0:35), a wandering manner, perhaps trying to remember former manifestations. This threatens to become more significant, but doesn’t. The meno mosso central section (1:32) is more changeable and diverting. A calm right-hand figure is subverted by an energetic left-hand one and then the theme is held in the left hand while the right goes in for descants in running semiquavers. Then comes a cadenza, a whirligig of arpeggios, though the briefer one in the coda (4:17) is better. So, op. 21 starts as a rather philosophic, probing work but ends as Tchaikovsky in pure ballet mode. For once only Pletnev, timing at 4:37, is marginally faster than Donohoe’s 4:42, perhaps because he takes more note of the piece’s title and thus maintains an ever-playful manner. As earlier, his dynamic contrasts are also more marked. All is high spirits which never bubble over, whereas Donohoe brings elements of something darker. Pletnev’s grazioso section starts curiously nonchalant, then grows animated. His meno mosso section is deliciously calm, including the left-hand figure.

A Passionate Avowal, op. posth., Moderato mosso, molto rubato in E minor (CD2, tr. 1) is Tchaikovsky’s piano transcription of the love scene of his symphonic ballad The Voevoda which he had withdrawn, as Donohoe presents it, is a real tear-jerker in glowing tone. It begins cantabile ed appassionato in baritone register, highly charged and growingly ardent, with a pounding right-hand accompaniment in quavers in triplets to keep the atmosphere sultry. The lady responds, soprano register dolce espressivo (0:41) with wistfulness and regret, yet also a fiery longing, begun with a poco animando (0:47). The man repeats his opening statement, but then comes a sadder element (from 1:40), including something of resignation. A brief silence. The lady’s response (2:05) is sorrowful, repetitive resignation, turning ever more desolate. Another brief silence, then all the couple can do in turn (2:29, 2:38) is repeat the opening four notes, rise to high E then sink back to their opening B as a cherished memory of what’s now gone. The lady’s E is dovetailed by an accompaniment E an octave higher (2:43), the cue for a halo of repeated quavers to end the piece.

Piano Sonata 2, usually called the Grande Sonate, is Tchaikovsky’s longest and most ambitious solo piano work. Its first movement, Moderato e risoluto in G major (tr.2), begins with a ceremonial splash, double-dotted rhythms and fanfare style, majestic, then mixed with a pesante march, for the common man, all breezy and rousing. A second phase, un poco rubato (0:39) is extravagant, dramatic, contorted and closes in hysterically high register. The left hand seems to be frantically supporting the right. But what insight is this supposed to provide? The strain behind the military façade?

The march returns and then the second theme (2:33) incorporates what we haven’t had before, a conversation between right and left hand, for me suggesting the private problems of a lady and a man beyond the public façade. The lady moves into a flowing tranquillo (3:02). But then, what’s this? (3:14): a sudden octave ascent and showy arpeggio and soon tumbling down, not marked f in the score in the Könemann Music Budapest urtext I’m using till its second occurrence (3:21), and I wish Donohoe had made this contrast there as an emboldening of the first declaration rather than earlier, because I there wondered if that was the man cutting in on the lady or all the lady, my preference, as soon it seems clearer the man (left-hand) is echoing the lady (3:32) and then accompanying her sympathetically as they dovetail semiquavers in triplets and then both share in octaves a somewhat heroic, ardent theme (3:54), then passing to octaves in the bass whereupon the lady goes into shrill upper register till the opening theme returns con tutta forza mixed this time with clusters of loud arpeggio chords (5:04) which don’t work for me. Tchaikovsky then overworks a transitional passage (5:30) but this is followed by an exciting developmental one (5:47): terrific playing by Donohoe here. The second phase of the opening returns (7:08) and then the march again. This all serves to make the return of the second theme more alluring and, interestingly, those octave ascents and arpeggios are cut this time, but we still get the dovetailed semiquavers in triplets and the duet. The overblown first ending with the octaves in the bass etc. is also cut because now the march must come to its peroration with monumental chutzpah. By now thematic variety has become negligible but, when played as here by Donohoe for all its worth and more, the sheer sonority is quite overwhelmingly stirring. What is magnificent is the closing left hand repeated figure from 11:12 above the bottom G pedal which becomes clearer when the right hand goes into the treble clef from 11:21, a great orchestral timpani part requiring two sets of timpani.

I compare Barry Douglas, recorded in 2019 (Chandos CHAN 20121). He times the movement at 12:34 against Donohoe’s 11:48, largely because he gives more space to the second theme. This makes the lady smoother but less natural than Donohoe, seeming more calculated in her poise of presentation. Douglas’ fanfares are less sonorous than Donohoe’s but his march has more convivial swing which I prefer, even though it is less pesante, that stronger feature with Donohoe makes the returns of the march become a bit tedious. Douglas’ soldiers are more trim and resolute marchers. I also prefer Douglas’ second phase: frillier, less tense. He plays it as a virtuoso showpiece, as which it’s more acceptable. During the second theme, he makes the arpeggio after the first octave ascent quieter than the second time and he also starts the ‘heroic’ theme quieter and gradually builds it. Also, he doesn’t make the closing octaves in the bass first time so thunderous, more in keeping as an evolution of the rest and similarly the soprano high register evolves to a climax more naturally where Donohoe is more histrionic. Douglas also plays the developmental material well and makes the whole movement seem more cohesive, albeit his more measured march conclusion is less thrilling than Donohoe’s.

The slow movement, Andante non troppo quasi Moderato (tr. 3), is in E minor. Its opening theme is of narrow melodic compass and much repetition, yet certainly an obsessive, dogged intensity. The second theme (1:19) moves forward more through the inclusion of more dotted rhythms. The return of the opening theme, Cantabile con molto sentimento e marcato la melodia, in octaves in the right hand (1:49) with a pochissimo crescendo, is more striking, dramatically offset by prominent, from Donohoe perhaps too prominent, offbeat left-hand quaver pairs, yet an effective climax con tutta forza is thereby reached. After this the ‘melody’ is reduced to the note G in low soprano register, as if only a rhythm can now be sustained. A central section, Moderato con animazione (3:36) brings a third theme, an endearing soprano one, fluent and, with syncopation, hopeful, then exchanged with baritone and growing in excitement when going into baritone range (3:51) with the soprano fluttering above. When the soprano has the theme again it’s now passionate, but is the increasing passion thereafter over the top, or is this down to Donohoe? The opening minimalism returns, the theme floating softly over soothing but wide-ranging arpeggios. The instruction marcato e cantabile la melodia acknowledges the arpeggios may obscure the plaintive yet shining melody and Donohoe just about avoids this. The second theme returns (6:15), briskly as before to clear the air, but now extended with ostentatious jollity and counterpoint jostling between the hands, but a stimulating gradual crescendo with animation in both hands. Climax reached, we’re back to that parade of low soprano Gs, but with more movement and sense of purpose this time. Now the return, high and gentle, of the third theme (7:57), eloquently exchanged between soprano and baritone, the latter with greater, heartfelt leaps until the soprano finally leaps too. A movement, then, of some haunting moments, but can you get a handle on the whole?

Douglas gives you more of a handle. His first theme, taken a little slower than Donohoe’s, 1:25 against 1:19, paradoxically flows more as a unit of grave sentiment and a more sorrowful cast, yet one that invites empathy. Douglas’ second theme is still solemn, despite its extra movement. He makes the second, soft phrase more contrasted than Donohoe does at 1:30, which links the second and first themes more closely. Douglas’ return of the first theme in octaves is more magically imploring than Donohoe’s steelier manner. With Douglas you feel more strongly it’s a lament flowing to the stark climax of the con tutta forza. With Douglas you feel pathos at the ‘melody’ reduced to a repeated G, with Donohoe a bleak absence of feeling. Douglas presents the third theme as a heavenly dream in soft cushioned focus. Everything is warm, even the passionate development, and I’m more convinced than with Donohoe by his weighting. With Douglas nothing is overdone, even if the very loud is somewhat understated. His focus on the opening theme at its return is clearer because he treats the arpeggios as a backcloth. He also brings out the first theme more clearly when it lurks within the expanded second theme return (6:46 in Donohoe). Douglas keeps the final return of the third theme very quiet, as marked, so its duet is less striking than Donohoe’s yet the placement of the individual voice solos is still telling.

The Scherzo, Allegro giocoso in G major (tr. 4), teems with bubbling energy in long-spanned phrases, driven by a rhythmic core of three falling semiquavers and then a plunge to one low one, this combined with two semiquaver descents, lots of rests and syncopation. You realize there hasn’t been such playfulness in this work before. The ‘Trio’ (0:53) is in E flat major and more laid back because the left hand on its own is allowed to delve deeper, this time the rhythm only two semiquavers plus one, falling stepwise, a pattern initiated by the right hand but then repeated thrice by the left. However, when the right hand opens out melodically (e.g. 1:00) the left is quick to imitate and better it. Tchaikovsky doesn’t resist the temptation to linger in such a comfortable environment, but it’s not long before the Scherzo and G major return (2:05) and now seem more vivacious because of the contrast. Light and shade are achieved through variation in dynamics and effective sequencing adds sparkle. The momentum built is such that a relatively long coda (2:57) is needed to wind things down, yet that’s pleasant too. Douglas, timing the movement at 2:59 to Donohoe’s 3:19 is scintillating in the Scherzo but its resultant more hectic, even scatty, quality rather misses out on the giocoso element and the inner part detail that Donohoe clarifies. In the Trio, however, Douglas makes the right-hand melody clearer which the left hand is always trailing, so there’s a fair case that it should be dominant. Nevertheless, I like that Donohoe here is not only more relaxed in mood but makes the interplay between the hands more apparent and with neater pointing appreciable.

The finale, an Allegro vivace rondo in G major (tr. 5), begins with a snappy, syncopated fanfare followed by a rondo theme which is akin to the semiquavers of the Scherzo but now more urgent, whirlingly delivered by Donohoe in a kaleidoscope of sound and powered forward by a second phase (0:24) of staccato quavers with more strongly accented syncopation and then ever quickening alternation of soft and loud phrases. The first episode (0:49) brings a welcome, rather folky, melody while there’s an irrepressible, somersaulting momentum about those semiquavers in the rondo theme’s return, now without second phase but straight into the second episode (1:48). This is of a more assertive, con espressione, indeed heroic, posture in its high tessitura triple octaves, i.e. in tenor, soprano and coloratura range, a heavenward sound, the most quintessential Tchaikovsky melody heard in this sonata. Surprisingly, it continues (2:20) softly in more mellow manner of right-hand marcato melody, with a soprano and coloratura D bell-like punctuation at the end of every phrase, against left-hand sempre legato accompaniment. The punctuation gradually rises in pitch with a crescendo into a forte con molto espr return of this episode’s theme (2:47). Then back to the rondo theme, this time with its second phase and then the first episode with lovely legato from Donohoe. The next rondo theme reappearance wanders into the cadenza territory of extravagant arpeggios before a coda (5:49) in which the second episode theme makes a mezzo forte dolce, con espr. appearance only to get softer for what sounds like being a quiet end until the sudden crescendo to ff brings a fanfare of G major chords as the terminus buffer. All egregiously theatrical, but it works.

Donohoe gives a splendid performance, but I wish his rondo theme wasn’t such a glowing blur of sound, by which I mean there’s a wealth of detail that itself can be confusing. Douglas’ theme for me hangs together more, being clearer in the pointing of its phrases and in its sheer sweep, timing the movement at 6:29 to Donohoe’s 6:46, albeit at the cost of being less sonorous. He does, however, have a more striking crescendo to ff at the end of the theme’s first statement (from 0:18 in Donohoe). I also think he’s right to take the fanfare as brisk as the rest, making it a real starting spur, where Donohoe’s fanfare is grander and sturdier. Douglas still makes the first episode well contrasted, with a cool, airy manner. His third episode is striking for the discipline of its song phrasing, a deliberation which gives it majesty but also formality and it does build well to its climactic grand statement, but it’s neither as sonorous nor tensely striving yet also flowing as Donohoe’s. Douglas’ second phase of the rondo theme is more exciting in his crystalline staccato on its return and his return of the first episode has an opalescent clarity as effective as Donohoe’s smoothness. For me Douglas could have made more of the coda’s poco a poco diminuendo of the third episode theme and his closing ff contrast isn’t as stark and thrilling as Donohoe’s.

The Humoresque, op.10, no. 2, in E minor (tr. 6), is a kind of scherzo and trio. The opening, marked Allegretto scherzando, is a touch wary as dancing quavers are disturbed by a D sharp of more alien character, but then perk up with plenty of bounce from Donohoe after which there’s no holding back triumph and grandeur. The central ‘trio’ (0:47), Semplice, ma espressivo, winsomely conveyed by Donohoe, is in E flat major. It uses the same technique of a cautious opening followed by boldness and a triumph of running semiquavers in the bass. Before this there are tweaks of modulation to enjoy, and after to get back to the ‘scherzo’. The coda is all easy, tripping, staccato quavers. Donohoe makes all the pretence light-hearted and joyous.

The Dumka, op. 59 makes a rousing conclusion to Donohoe’s presentation. In a recent review of Boris Bloch’s CD of Tchaikovsky piano music (Ars Produktion ARS38509) I introduce this piece and make a comparison between Bloch’s performance, also from 2018, and Donohoe’s in this Signum set. It’s interesting how different and yet equally valid both approaches are: I invite you to click this link to my review.

The uncaptioned Signum cover photograph dates from 1888, two years after the latest exactly dated work on these CDs. Had the earliest date for the earliest been chosen for a photo, you could have seen a clean-shaven lad whose beard didn’t appear until 1865. I should also point out these two Signum discs timing at just over the maximum length of one are only priced as one full-price disc.

To sum up, if above all you like your Tchaikovsky piano music exciting, with an emphasis on the wild side too, Donohoe is your man. But I hope I have shown that in the longer pieces he faces serious competition.

Michael Greenhalgh



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