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 4: Pastorale: Andante con moto
No 5: Introduction and Fugue: Allegro
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