Peter Donohoe gave us an insight into his current concert tour programme which is comprised of composers’ Opus 1 solo piano works.
Here we had a sample, with the first published works of Schumann, Brahms and Tchaikovsky. Donohoe described the opening allegro of Brahms’ C major sonata as being symphonic and for much of its four-movement length it sounds like a piano reduction of a symphony.
Perhaps it was one of his many trial runs for the first symphony whose composition he was always postponing. Even Donohoe’s enthusiastic and trenchant advocacy couldn’t compensate for its occasionally thick textures and its final two movements which lack sufficient contrast.
How different is Schumann’s Opus 1, the sparkling Theme and Variations on the name “Abegg” – we’re never in any doubt which instrument this was composed for.
The lady who inspired it, whose name is encoded in the enigmatic title, must have been a charmer – Schumann even gives us a musical version of her tinkling laughter. Donohoe’s touch was aptly light and fluid here as it was in Schumann’s charming Arabesque, while in Tchaikovsky’s Scherzo a la russe – from Two Pieces for Piano Op 1 – chords were thundered out like a choir of Russian basses.
Donohoe gave his first public performance of Scriabin’s third piano sonata and while his interpretation is a work-in-progress, the con fuoco close – where Chopin’s salon is invaded by the infernal gale from Tchaikovsky’s Francesca di Rimini – was mightily impressive. Scriabin’s Opus 1, a Chopinesque waltz, was an encore bon-bon.