Peter Donohoe at The Red Hedgehog

Bach, transcribed Busoni
Toccata, Adagio & Fugue in C, BVW364
Liszt
Sonata in B minor
Chopin
Ballade in F minor, Op.52
Brahms
Sonata No.3 in F minor, Op.5

Peter Donohoe (piano)


Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter

Reviewed: 8 December, 2007
Venue: The Red Hedgehog, Highgate, London N6

Peter Donohoe“The concert tonight celebrates joy”. Thus began Peter Donohoe’s benign introduction to himself and the programme he devised.

The Toccata, Adagio & Fugue had its first life as a piece for organ. Busoni, wishing to play it in his concerts, devised a piano version. Donohoe confessed that he had struggled with the organ original, but found that he could thankfully get his fingers round Busoni’s adaptation. With a swell of sound from the resident Yamaha, he proceeded to fill the intimate space of the Red Hedgehog with grandeur, delivering this late-Romantic exaltation of Bach with swirling panache.

Liszt’s Sonata was also a mighty affair, Donohoe’s powerful technique driving a forceful, magisterial interpretation. The sheer largeness of this particular presentation of Liszt’s masterpiece was highly-charged and dramatic, presenting the work urgently and memorably, with Romantic pulse and ringing melody. The sustaining pedal was devised for a work such as this: Donohoe created clouds of resonant sound that filled every available space.

Chopin’s Ballade was sinuous, dark and forceful – like some enormous eel forcefully winding and curling its way through murky depths. The power that Donohoe found in this work was awesome, nowhere more so than when the music thrusts its way jubilantly into the major.

Brahms’s final Sonata is, conversely, an early work, difficult technically, but rewarding. It is symphonic both in the nature of the material and the scale of Brahms’s handling of it – an amazing work from a 20-year-old who had been making his living playing in theatres and taverns. The Allegro maestoso was meaty and energetic; the Andante had a melting lyrical heat; the scherzo leapt and swaggered and the following intermezzo reflected, while the virile finale, with no compunction, turned into a blazing, joyous fugue. The music – and the performance – was on fire. This was, indeed, a celebration.

For an encore, Donohoe played something gentler: Brahms’s Intermezzo in A (Opus 118/Number 2). He had warned us earlier that Brahms’s works became less fiery with age, preparing us for the benignity to come. Even so, towards the end of the encore, the lion raises his relaxed head to give us a keen look.

On a cold night, with public transport below its best, there was a goodly attendance, though with room for more. Peter Donohoe concluded by thanking us for coming, declaring his pleasure in playing here and urging us to come again. The rapport that performer and listeners achieved at The Red Hedgehog was, as usual, a delight.

  • The Red Hedgehog
  • The Red Hedgehog is situated at 255-257 Archway Road, Highgate, London, N6 5BS
  • Box Office: 020 8348 5050

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