Dohnányi composed his Three Singular Pieces Op 44, his last composition for solo piano, in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1951. The humorous work is dedicated to John and Martha Kirn, who had been Dohnányi’s most loyal advocates throughout his odyssey from Europe to the United States. As with the Four Rhapsodies, the Three Singular Pieces can be played individually or together to comprise a traditional multi-movement plan: in this case, the fast-slow-fast configuration of a classical sonata. The first piece is a Burletta
, a genre traditionally associated with humour. Just as Bartók used rhythmic interplay to infuse wittiness into the Burletta
movement of his String Quartet No 6, Dohnányi’s joke continually repeats an intentionally clumsy sequence of bars that are five, four, three and two beats in duration. The second movement, Nocturne (Cats on the Roof)
, is a parody of a Romantic nocturne, with the contemplative serenity of the night interrupted in the middle and end of the piece by cascading patterns that represent the meowing of cats. The final piece is a Perpetuum mobile
that could indeed last for ever: near the end, the score includes the whimsical instructions ‘Da capo con ripetizioni ad infinitum’.
from notes by James A Grymes © 2012