Peter Donohoe

Dumka (Scène rustique russe), Op.59
Piano Sonata No.2 in B minor, Op.61
Piano Sonata No.1, Op.12
Morceaux de fantaisie, Op.3 – No.2: Prelude in C sharp minor
Preludes, Op. 23 – No.1 in F sharp minor, No.2 in B flat, No.3 in D minor, No.4 in D, No. 5 in G minor

Peter Donohoe (piano)

Reviewed by: Nick Breckenfield

Reviewed: 23 March, 2006
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

In a welcome return to the International Piano Series, Peter Donohoe tailored his recital to the South Bank Centre’s Shostakovich Focus, bringing together his two piano sonatas as a coda to the Emerson String Quartet’s survey of the quartet canon. The sonatas are much rarer beasts than the quartets and it was great to have the chance to hear both in a single recital.

The Second – coming first – was preceded by Tchaikovsky’s Dumka, a little lumpy in Donohoe’s performance as he settled down, the slow rhythm perhaps not as smooth as ideal and with a rather perfunctory final gambit. The Sonata fared better – despite the vocal interruption at the end of the slow movement of a front-row wheelchair-bound audience-member, through which Donohoe impressively kept his concentration – with its flowing opening movement, sombre middle movement, and the ten variations of the finale, through which Donohoe gained in power.

Even more exhilarating was the First Sonata that came after the interval; its thunderous opening on the very edges of tonality, both hands battling for middle ground, then with flashes of C major as the hands jump to either end of the keyboard. Quite how Donohoe could fit all the notes in (let alone young Shostakovich) remains something of a mystery. While some of it may seem a little derivative (there’s a quote from Prokofiev, who heard the sonata played by Shostakovich and was told by a friend that he liked it so much because it aped his own style!), it certainly jumped off the page in this performance.

More familiar territory ended the recital, with the first six of Rachmaninov’s opus-number Preludes. Following the earliest published, the one in C sharp minor, Donohoe then played the first five of the Opus 23 set, ending with the distinctive, rocking, march-rhythm that characterises the G minor. Rachmaninov’s Preludes have been long in Donohoe’s repertoire and he has recorded them for EMI; they worked a treat here, Donohoe freed from the scores he had used for both Shostakovich sonatas.

Quite appropriately Donohoe also played the final Prelude and Fugue from Shostakovich’s Opus 87, number 24 in D minor. He remarked that it might be rather long as an encore, but it was ideal to bring this well-thought-out recital to a close. If only more recitals were as well considered as this. Aside from a few splashes of miss-hit notes, this was a great way to end the Shostakovich Focus and another feather in the cap for the International Piano Series – and all-but sold out, too.

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