Hyperion Records

Humoresques in the form of a suite, Op 17
composer
1907

Recordings
'Dohnányi: Dohnányi plays Dohnányi' (APR7038)
Dohnányi: Dohnányi plays Dohnányi
APR7038  2CDs Download only  
'Dohnányi: The Complete Solo Piano Music, Vol. 2' (CDA67932)
Dohnányi: The Complete Solo Piano Music, Vol. 2
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67932  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Details
No 1: March: Allegro moderato
No 2: Toccata: Allegro molto
No 3: Pavane from the 16th century with variations: Allegretto, quasi Andante – Variations 1-5
No 3a: Pavane: Allegretto, quasi andante
Track 5 on APR7038 CD2 [0'48] 2CDs Download only
No 3b: Variation 1: Dolce
Track 6 on APR7038 CD2 [0'52] 2CDs Download only
No 3c: Variation 2: Poco più mosso
Track 7 on APR7038 CD2 [0'48] 2CDs Download only
No 3d: Variation 3: Scherzando
Track 8 on APR7038 CD2 [0'45] 2CDs Download only
No 3e: Variation 4: Meno mosso, ma agitato
Track 9 on APR7038 CD2 [0'42] 2CDs Download only
No 3f: Variation 5: Tranquillo
Track 10 on APR7038 CD2 [1'01] 2CDs Download only
No 4: Pastorale: Andante con moto
No 5: Introduction and Fugue: Allegro

Humoresques in the form of a suite, Op 17
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Dohnányi launched his career as a professional pianist with recitals in Berlin on 1 and 7 October 1897. These performances featured the premiere of the third of his Four Pieces, as well as of the Variations and Fugue on a Theme of EG. Over the next eight years Dohnányi would establish himself as one of the leading pianists of his generation with tours throughout Europe, Great Britain, and the United States. In 1905 he consolidated his reputation by accepting a prestigious professorship at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. Two years later, he composed his Humoresques in the form of a suite, Op 17. Like ‘Capriccio’, ‘Humoresque’ (or ‘Humoreske’) was a popular title in the nineteenth century for short, humorous compositions for piano, and in this work Dohnányi arranged five such pieces into a suite. The entire work is notable for its references to previous musical eras—an idea to which Dohnányi would return six years later in his Suite in Olden Style, Op 24.

The score for the first movement is titled simply March, but Dohnányi often referred to it as the ‘March humoresque’ in concert programmes. It is based on a four-beat descending tetrachord that provides an ostinato to all but the last two bars. When Dohnányi performed the March, he would play the ground bass twice as an introduction before commencing the published work.

The second movement is a Toccata, a genre that has been popular since the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Such pieces derived their titles from the Italian word for ‘touched’ because they required advanced technique. Dohnányi includes a reference to the second Prelude from J S Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier.

In the third movement Pavane (‘Pavane from the 16th century with variations’), Dohnányi quotes a stately Renaissance dance before varying it five times, again showing his predilection for variation form. In the third variation the composer combines the theme with a quotation of ‘Gaudeamus igitur’, which Brahms famously quoted in his Academic Festival Overture.

The next movement is a Pastorale, a genre associated with the countryside that forms yet another connection to the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Just as he would ten years later in his Pastorale ‘Hungarian Christmas Song’ (see volume 1), Dohnányi complies with the standard conventions for composing pastorales by combining drones in the bass that imitate shepherds’ bagpipes with a lilting siciliana in the upper register that is reminiscent of shepherds’ shawms. In this case, the siciliana proves to be a two-part canon.

The final movement is a four-part Fugue. As with the fugal finale of the Variations and Fugue on a Theme of EG, this work is an impressive display of compositional acumen that also demands a virtuoso performer—a perfect vehicle through which the thirty-year-old composer–pianist could confirm his extraordinary skills in both arenas.

from notes by James A Grymes © 2013

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